Rick Scott – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Ka-ching: Rick Scott touts ‘record breaking’ fundraising number

Rick Scott‘s campaign for U.S. Senate says it broke a record: It raised $10.7 million in the second quarter of 2018.

That more than triples the best effort of any quarter by his opponent, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The $10.7 million figure — “a historic amount that surpasses any other national Senate campaign” — also does not reflect any of Scott’s own personal money spent on the campaign.

The final tally included more than 11,000 contributors, 80 percent of whom live in Florida; 75 percent of all contributors gave less than $500.

Only 3.2 percent of the contributions came from political action committees (though one would expect those contributions to be higher than that $500 threshold, when the official Federal Elections Commission report drops later this month).

Scott, the state’s two-term governor, asserts in the release that the $10.7 million haul is “sending a message to Washington that the time of career politicians is over – and our momentum is not slowing down.”

Florida Finance Chairwoman Darlene Jordan had a similar take: “This historic more than $10.7 million fundraising quarter shows that the opportunity to elect Governor Rick Scott and send a career politician back home has Floridians more excited than ever before.”

National Finance Chairman Thomas O. Hicks was likewise on the same page, asserting that “Americans across the country have made it clear that they are ready to have a real leader in Washington, and every single dollar raised puts us one step closer to electing Governor Rick Scott to the U.S. Senate.”

Scott has been a well-traveled fundraiser, with events from coast to coast. What’s clear is that he has buy in from a large swath of the nation’s elite in addition to the grassroots support touted.

Thus far, asserts the release, Scott has not had to contribute to his own campaign — a change from his 2010 and 2014 races, where he spent $75 million to get elected and another $12.8 million in the re-election bid.

Nelson, according to the March FEC filing, had $10,524,453 on hand. It will be interesting to see how the fundraising quarter affected his numbers.

Philip Levine touts record on police reform in new ad

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is out with a new ad highlighting a key hire made during his four-year tenure as Miami Beach mayor.

The 30-second ad, titled “What a Leader Does,” is on former Lauretta Hill, who was appointed deputy chief of police at the Miami Beach Police Department in 2014. She has since moved on to become a police commissioner in Dallas.

“Four years ago, Philip Levine led the effort to reform the Miami Beach Police Department by putting citizens first,” Hill says in the ad. “I should know, because I was there, sworn in by Mayor Levine as the highest-ranking woman and African-American in department history.

“Together we fought racism, brought the community and police closer, and saw violent crime drop. He took a lot of heat from those who fought progress. But Philip? He’s never been afraid—to do the right thing.”

Though Hill was appointed to the Miami Beach job by Police Chief Dan Oates, the Levine campaign says the ad “underscores the actions taken by Mayor Levine and city leaders to reform the police department following several high-profile incidents of excessive force.”

Levine added that “Hill embodies the best that our country has to offer and it was my absolute honor to work alongside her in Miami Beach. It wasn’t easy, but together, we reformed a police department and made Miami Beach safer by working with our community.  It’s time we take the same approach statewide, partner with law enforcement and our communities to deliver real change and build a better, safer Florida.”

Levine is one of five major Democrats vying to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott. He faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and Orlando-area businessman Chris King in the Aug. 28 primary election.

As of June 29, he led the Democratic field in money raised, though his total includes more than $11 million of self-funding.

The ad, viewable below, will start hitting airwaves Monday.

Pinellas GOP straw poll favors George Buck, Adam Putnam, Ashley Moody, Denise Grimsley

A straw poll held today by the Pinellas County Republican Party today delivered wins for Gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Denise Grimsley, while George Buck won the poll for the Congressional race in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

“Pinellas County has a history of picking winners in our straw poll and this year will be no exception,” said Todd Jennings, vice chairman of the Pinellas County Republican Party Vice Chair. More than 300 people attended the Straw Poll Picnic at Banquet Masters.

Putnam has come in ahead of Ron DeSantis in five straw polls taken over the past 10 days. He also won straw polls conducted by the Republican Party of Brevard’s Council of Clubs, Central Florida Republican Women’s Clubs, Casselberry Chamber of Commerce and Seminole Republican Executive Committee.

Moody won four of those five straw polls, and was in attendance at the Pinellas event.

The poll also showed Gov. Rick Scott as the favorite Republican to take on U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

In local races, Buck came out ahead of Brad Sostack as the favorite candidate to take on U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.

Ed Hooper came out ahead of Leo Karruli in the state Senate District 16 primary.

In state House primaries, straw poll voters picked James Grant over Terry Power in District 64, Nick DiCeglie over Berny Jacques in District 66 and Ray Blacklidge over Jeremy Bailie in District 69.

Kathleen Peters won the GOP straw poll for Pinellas County Commission District 6.

In Pinellas County School Board races, straw poll voters picked Lisa Cane in District 2, Peggy O’Shea in District 3 and Bill Dudley in District 6.

Rick Scott urges justices to stay out of appointment battle

Attorneys for Gov. Rick Scott on Friday argued the state Supreme Court should not step into a legal dispute about whether Scott can appoint a Northeast Florida circuit judge or whether the judge should be elected by voters.

Scott administration attorneys filed a 30-page response that fired back against a request for the Supreme Court to block the appointment until underlying legal issues can be resolved. The case centers on whether Scott should be able to appoint a replacement for retiring 4th Judicial Circuit Judge Robert Foster.

Jacksonville attorney David Trotti filed a lawsuit arguing that the replacement should be elected in November. A Leon County circuit judge agreed and blocked the Scott administration from moving forward with an appointment process.

But the Scott administration immediately appealed, and the 1st District Court of Appeal kept in place a stay on the circuit judge’s ruling. That effectively allowed the appointment process to advance while the case continued.

Trotti, who tried to qualify to run for the seat in November, then asked the Supreme Court to step in and halt the appointment process.

Foster was expected to leave office Jan. 7, 2019, which would be the end of his term, because of a mandatory retirement age. But on April 2, Foster sent a letter to Scott making the retirement effective Dec. 31, four business days ahead of schedule.

The Scott administration takes the position that the governor’s acceptance of a judicial resignation before the start of an election-qualifying period creates a vacancy that will be filled by appointment, rather than election.

“Here, the undisputed facts establish that Judge Foster’s resignation was tendered and accepted by the governor before the election process commenced at the beginning of the candidate qualifying period,” Friday’s response said.

“The governor is therefore constitutionally authorized and obligated to fill the vacancy by appointment, and the secretary of state is prohibited from qualifying candidates for a judicial seat that will not be filled by election.”

The 4th Judicial Circuit is made up of Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.

Rick Scott, Robert Foster, David Trotti, 1st District Court of Appeal, Florida Supreme Court, judicial

Jacksonville Bold for 7.6.18 — Fireworks or fizzle?

After a brief sabbatical, Bold is back.

The campaign season — local state House and Senate races and special elections, and statewide battles — is in full swing.

Competitive races abound up and down the ballot, along with more than a few cakewalks.

Since we took our break, we’ve also seen a new Jacksonville City Council president.

Jacksonville celebrates the return of Bold.

Aaron Bowman, an ally of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, is expected to presage an era of good feeling.

Will this happen? The mayor’s office hopes so.

With Jacksonville’s municipal elections running through May of next year, the local political season is a different matter than just the August/November cycle we see in state and federal races.

Ahead of us: close to a year of campaign finance watching, ad analysis, guessing and second-guessing, tips that do (and sometimes don’t) pan out.

People often say that FloridaPolitics.com covers the miscellany of the political scene, which otherwise would be ignored.

They’re right.

And for those of you who miss the content during the week, we try to bring together the best of the best (even in a slow week such as this) to you in Jacksonville Bold.

Great to be back!

LGBT group backs Lawson over Brown

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown faced questions about his commitment to LGBT rights during his four-year term, and those questions have continued to dog him as he mounts a primary challenge to Congressman Al Lawson.

The latest example: the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus choosing to endorse Florida’s 5th Congressional District incumbent, a first-term legislator from Tallahassee.

No surprise: Al Lawson gets backing from a prominent LGBTA group.

“Congressman Lawson has always been on the right side of the issues for the LGBT community,” said Terry Fleming, president of the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.

“We are proud he’s our representative in Washington who will stand up for equal rights for all, and that’s why the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus is pleased to endorse Congressman Al Lawson for re-election,” Fleming added.

Lawson was “humbled by this endorsement from the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.”

“Throughout my career,” Lawson added, “I have believed in true equality for all and fought to ensure no person is ever discriminated against due to his or her age, race, sex, religion or sexual orientation. We have made great strides in our nation, but there is still so much more we can do. I will continue to work to drive that path forward.”

Bean in cash cakewalk thus far

In Northeast Florida’s Senate District 4, incumbent Sen. Aaron Bean continued to hold a commanding lead over three opponents as of June 22, the most recent reportage date for state candidates.

The first three weeks of June, however, saw slow fundraising for Bean, who raised nothing for his political committee (Florida Conservative Alliance) and $4,500 in hard money, including maximum $1,000 contributions from Friends of Dana Young and GrayRobinson.

Boon times for Aaron Bean, as challengers struggle for cash.

Between the two accounts, Bean has roughly $160,000 on hand.

Bean will face a primary challenge, via Carlos Slay, a candidate widely seen as being backed by Bean’s political rival, former Rep. Janet Adkins.

Slay has not raised any money, and paid his filing fee via a personal loan.

The winner of the Bean/Slay clash will face two general election opponents, Democrat Billie Bussard and Libertarian Joanna Tavares.

Bussard has $4,500 on hand, having raised money between June 5 and June 22.

Tavares has less than $40 on hand after paying her filing fee.

What Bean is up to

The Fernandina Beach Republican will speak to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Jacksonville and will provide a postmortem of the 2018 Legislative Session Thursday, July 12, 9:30 a.m., Maggiano’s, 10367 Midtown Pkwy., Jacksonville.

Later that day, Bean will be honored with an award from the First Coast Apartment Association in appreciation for being a friend to their industry, 7:00 p.m., Sheraton Jacksonville Hotel, 10605 Deerwood Park Blvd, Jacksonville.

Yarborough dominates in HD 12 cash dash

State Rep. Clay Yarborough, a Jacksonville Republican in his first term, maintained his money lead over Democratic challenger Tim Yost through the first three weeks in June.

Clay Yarborough continues to hold a strong lead over Tim Yost.

Neither candidate has a primary challenge in House District 12, a Southside Jacksonville district that encompasses the Arlington area, which means this is a race to November.

Yarborough brought in $6,700 off ten contributions in the period, with Waste Management and the Southeast Florida Chamber of Commerce pacing the political veteran’s haul.

The Republican spent nearly as much as he took in during the reporting period, with $5,755 heading out the door, mostly to consultants and for a qualifying fee.

Yost had his best reporting period of fundraising since filing last summer, bringing in $2,521 ($1,781 of it from the candidate himself, to cover his filing fee).

Yost has almost $4,300 on hand, but Yarborough holds serve, with just under $107,000 in cash available.

Duggan closes in on Polson in HD 15 money battle

Democrat Tracye Polson will carry the party’s flag against one of three Republicans in a November race for exiting state Rep. Jay Fant‘s Westside Jacksonville seat.

GOP voters will pick Tracye Polson’s opponent. Donors are leaning toward Wyman Duggan thus far.

The bookkeeping through the first three weeks of June reveals a tightening financial picture between Polson, a well-funded first-time candidate, and Wyman Duggan, a Jacksonville lobbyist.

Polson brought in $3,647 to her campaign account, which now has roughly $115,000 on hand; her political committee added another $800, pushing that tally to $14,000 on hand.

Polson still leads the money race, but on the strength of his best reporting period since October 2017, Duggan is closing in.

Duggan brought in $13,800 to his campaign account in June (pushing the total near $121,000 on hand), driven by establishment support from J.B. CoxwellW.W. Gay, and CSX Transportation.

Running behind Duggan and Polson: the two other Republicans in the race.

Yacht broker Mark Zeigler brought in $5,325, pushing the first-time candidate over $33,000 on hand.

And Joseph Hogan, whose $1,500 in the first three weeks of June pushed his total over $8,000, may be trailing in fundraising. Nonetheless, he had the biggest name contributor of the four HD 15 hopefuls this cycle: former House Speaker Allan Bense.

Fischer stays strong against Dem challenge

In the first three weeks of June, state Rep. Jason Fischer, the incumbent Republican in Mandarin (Jacksonville) House District 16, lengthened his money lead against Democratic challenger Ken Organes.

Jason Fischer continues his fundraising lead.

Neither candidate faces a primary opponent, making the race in 16 a sprint toward November.

Fischer’s political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville, brought in $21,000; his campaign account received another $8,500.

School choice money, via Step Up for Students founder John Kirtley, comprised $10,000 of the committee’s haul; Florida Power and Light, a company with lobbyists in Jacksonville’s City Hall during the lapsed debate over potential privatization of the city’s utility, ponied up $5,000.

The $8,500 of new money in Fischer’s campaign account came from 10 contributors, including long-term care apothecary Senior Care Pharmacy, the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, and the Southeast Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Fischer’s committee had at the time of filing $80,000 on hand; his campaign account had another $93,000.

Organes, meanwhile, raised $6,484, pushing his campaign account over $20,000 on hand.

Among Organes’ backers: former CSX CEO Michael Ward, notable as Organes retired from the Jacksonville railroad, former State Attorney candidate Jay Plotkin, and the local Sheet Metal Workers.

What Nelson is reading

Melissa Nelson, the State Attorney for the 4th Circuit Court, couldn’t have commissioned a stronger endorsement of her job performance thus far than this paean to “smart justice” in the Florida Times-Union.

Melissa Nelson gets her most robust endorsement yet. (Image via Folio Weekly)

“Among the brightest spots in Nelson’s vision is expanding diversion and civil citation programs, which seek to steer individuals away out of the criminal justice system. Diversion programs use alternatives to the usual criminal court system to process certain low-level, nonviolent offenders. Rather than rely on criminal sanctions that often do little more than force offenders to languish in a jail cell, diversion programs require these individuals to undergo substance abuse, mental health or other treatment,” the editorial from the right-leaning R Street Institute reads.

“By embracing “smart on crime” justice, Northeast Florida finds itself in good company. Conservative-led jurisdictions across the country are beginning to experiment with new ideas and reap prodigious returns on the back of evidence-based reforms,” the piece continues.

Read more here.

Ray retains tax collector cash lead

As of June 22, former State Rep. Lake Ray leads his three opponents in fundraising for the Duval County Tax Collector election to be held this August.

The election, which will see the top two candidates move to the November ballot if no one gets a majority of votes, was necessitated by former tax collector Michael Corrigan moving on to a role with Visit Jacksonville.

Ray, a Republican, has raised $128,660, with $17,350 hauled in between June 1 and June 20. He has over $119,000 on hand.

Doyle Carter, languishing third in the money race.

Ray’s closest competitor is also a Republican, former property appraiser, and city councilman Jim Overton, who has raised $90,000 total, with almost $79,000 on hand.

During the most recent three-week reporting period, Overton brought in $15,650.

Running third in the money race: current Jacksonville City Councilman Doyle Carter.

Carter, also a Republican, had the best three-week period of all the candidates. His $22,050 haul included a noteworthy donation, via the “Jacksonville Conservative Action Fund” committee, seeded solely by the Republican Party of Florida.

Carter has over $53,000 on hand.

Running in fourth place: the sole Democrat in the race, former State Rep. Mia Jones.

Jones raised $9,740 in the three-week reporting period and has just over $12,000 total.

Task force hits Jacksonville government for transparency failings

In its final report, the Jacksonville City Council Task Force on Open Government offered an indictment of Curry’s administration and the Jacksonville City Council on transparency issues.

The media has long wondered why Lenny Curry’s emails lack real discussions of city issues.

The panel, co-chaired by trial lawyer Hank Coxe and former Jessie Ball DuPont Center head Sherry Magill, says city government makes it “difficult for the public to understand governmental processes and decisions.”

Mayoral staff review of public records requests and disallowing journalists to interview department heads: two of the black marks identified.

The City Council also gets dinged for not posting text messages and emails to a public portal. Indeed, the only Council communications available without a public record request are emails to the whole Council. And text messages, for anyone in city government, are not made available without said PRR.

Critics of the city website say it’s hard to navigate, and lacking attention to SEO or navigation; the city budget for being hard to understand; public notice processes are “archaic.”

Whether legislation will emerge from this or not is a different matter.

The task force was a priority of former Council President Brosche, and it is by no means certain that her Council colleagues share her interest in increasing transparency in the ways the task force recommends.

Jacksonville leads in emerging economic centers

Some good news for once, and kudos to the Jax Daily Record for providing it.

Per a recent study from the Urban Land Institute, Jacksonville is among a leader in “emerging economic centers.”

Photo of St. Johns Town Center, via Visit Jacksonville.

Jacksonville, with 11.9 percent of urban residents living in emerging economic centers, is seeing “new urban cores” emerge.

The study spotlighted Riverside and the Town Center.

What is missing: “mixed-use districts,” with high-density housing and upscale retail.

Perhaps the District will solve that problem once it is built on the Southbank.

Car trouble

Suspended Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown, at this point, is better known for her legal woes than anything she’s done legislatively.

Another legal action against the compromised councilor.

38-count federal indictment, spotlighting a scheme to defraud with another suspended councilman (Reggie Brown), is the reason.

However, the feds aren’t the only ones suing Katrina Brown. Also coming after her as of this week: Wells Fargo, which loaned her money using a 2000 Ford Explorer as collateral, is now suing her for a nonperforming loan.

This is Katrina Brown’s second lawsuit regarding lapsed car payments since she has been on Council: the first one involved a 2006 Porsche Cayenne SUV.

In this case, Wells Fargo subsidiary OneMain loaned Councilwoman Brown $8,300 at 25 percent interest using a 16-year-old truck as collateral on Nov. 2016, just weeks before the FBI, the IRS, HUD, the Small Business Administration and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office raided her family’s BBQ sauce plant.

Councilwoman Brown stopped making payments on the loan last summer, per the lawsuit.

This loan’s timing tracks with two of the counts against Katrina Brown in the federal indictment, which asserts that she was trying to secure a loan for $60,000 for “working capital” for her KJB Specialties from a company called LendCore through Nov. 2016, and $50-$55,000 from Credibly and Webbank in the same time frame. Part of the scheme to defraud, per the indictment, included materially altering bank statements.

Katrina and Reggie Brown, at this writing, are expected to see their federal trials begin Sep. 4.

Pretty vacant

On June 1, Gov. Rick Scott suspended two Democratic Jacksonville City Council members who face 38 federal counts in a scheme to defraud local and federal taxpayers.

While Scott has not yet picked replacements for Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, former Council President Anna Brosche solved the issue for their constituents weeks ago.

That solution: Councilman Sam Newby and Brosche will fill in for the suspended duo until replacements are appointed.

“Me stepping in to help handle things in District 10 is a very temporary situation,” Brosche said to one of many impassioned speakers at a June public notice meeting.

And indeed, it was temporary, as now current Council President Aaron Bowman exercised his authority and relieved the two at-large Republicans of those duties this week.

“That was not a legal assignment,” Bowman said. “They have five at-large representatives to represent them.”

Brosche appointed herself and Newby to the roles, she said Tuesday, because she believed the need for a point person to address concerns specific to those districts.

The move “wasn’t about legal authority,” she added; rather, it was about ensuring the constituents had representation.

Brosche also noted that, in her understanding, similar moves in the past filled in the gap for suspended councilors.

School super speaks out

WJCT interviewed Dr. Diana Greene, the new superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, this week.

(Image via WJCT)

She’s not quite sure what needs changing first.

“I don’t think what I know right now is enough information to make that determination. What are the areas that need the most improvement? But there are general areas it would matter what district I’m in. Academics is always going to be something that we can always improve. Ensuring safety and security of our students, making sure that our employees are safe in their locations at work,” Greene said. “Those are things that are happening not only in Duval but across the country, and we want to continue to focus on those same issues so that our students, when they come to school, they know that they’re in a safe environment, when our teachers come to work, they’re in a safe environment and that the No. 1 priority is doing what’s best for students to ensure their success.”

Greene also seemed open to a millage hike via referendum:

“I think any passing of a referendum requires a coalition of involved and engaged citizens in the process and stepping in July 2, being my first official day, I need to again get to know people, introduce myself to the community … It does take time. It takes time to understand what are the issues? And 1) will a referendum help solve those issues? My first role is to No. 1 get to know everyone, but No. 2, identify what are our issues?”

The board appointed Greene, who started this week.

Save the date

St. Johns Chamber of Commerce is holding a Candidate Meet-and-Greet, Monday, July 16, at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, 1050 A1A North. The nonpartisan event – from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. – will feature a straw poll conducted by the St. Johns Supervisor of Elections. It’s free and open to the public.

JTA bond rating stays strong

Bond rating agency S&P is upholding the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) ‘AA’ rating, giving stability for the regional transit agency’s local option gas tax (LOGT) revenue bonds, series 2015.

Series 2015 bonds represent JTA’s first direct debt issuance; money helps fund roadway and mobility improvements. This rating reflects an assessment of the prospects of LOGT revenues relative to the required JTA debt service payments, along with future capital needs.

“This bond rating assessment strengthens the financial position of the Authority,” said JTA Board Chair Isaiah Rumlin. “The rating allows the Authority to continue to improve safety, reduce congestion on major roadways, provide mobility options and enhance the quality of life for the community.”

JTA works with the City of Jacksonville to identify specific roadway, transit and mobility projects. Construction is underway for roadway development as well as enhancements for bicycle, pedestrian, transit and ADA accessibility. Since its inception in 2015, the program is installed 7.5 miles of sidewalk.

“The 2015 bond issuance has enabled the JTA to aggressively implement the JTAMobilityWorks initiative,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel Ford. “I want to thank our board of directors for their governance and commitment to effective financial management.”

JAA head to retire

Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) Chief Executive Officer Steve Grossman is retiring at the end of 2018. Named CEO in September 2009, Grossman oversees the operation, maintenance, development and marketing of authority assets such as Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), Cecil Airport/Spaceport, Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport (JAXEX) and Herlong Recreational Airport. He also serves as the primary JAA representative to the community.

Retiring JAA CEO Steve Grossman. (Image via News4Jax)

Under Grossman’s leadership, JAA achieved annual operating profit margins of at least 30 percent.

JAA Chair Giselle Carson said in a statement: “Under Steve’s leadership, JAX saw a recovery in passenger traffic after the Great Recession, celebrated its 50th anniversary, launched our Aviation Hall of Fame, developed Cecil Airport bringing over a thousand new jobs to the area and watched Cecil Spaceport bring in new technology that will take us into the future.”

Grossman has been a member of the Airports Council International World Governing Board and is a past chair of Airports Council International-North America. He currently serves on the City of Jacksonville Tourist Development Council, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce board of trustees, and the University of North Florida Transportation and Logistics Advisory Council.

Flagler Hospital breaks ground on Murabella Health Village

Nearly 100 people attended the groundbreaking of the Flagler Health Village at Murabella.

When completed by the summer of 2019, the new facility will include 20,000 square feet dedicated to urgent care, advanced imaging, laboratory services, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, primary care and specialty care. Additionally, plans for the site include a 25,000 square foot healthy lifestyle center with fitness, prevention and education program offerings for all ages.

Flagler Hospital is expanding with a new satellite facility.

“As we broaden our reach into new markets, we do so with great enthusiasm. It is important for us to heal people when they are sick and also to support a healthier, more vibrant community,” Flagler Hospital President and CEO Jason Barret said in a news release.

Special guests at the event included Kalilah Jamall, staff assistant in the office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who brought along special message from Nelson; State Sen.Travis Hutson; Jackie Smith, aide to Congressman John Rutherford; City of St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver; City of St. Augustine Vice Mayor Todd Neville and St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Operations, Greg Voss.

Jax neurosurgeons bring lifesaving work to Philippines

In June, Jacksonville pediatric neurosurgeon Philipp Aldana joined other health care professionals on a volunteer educational medical mission to his native Philippines. They make the 9,000 trip every two years to teach new neurosurgical techniques to Filipino doctors and consult on neurological cases.

As the Florida Times-Union reports, the trip is a reminder of the vast difference between health care services available in the Philippines and the United States.

Aldana, who is based at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and UF Health Jacksonville, along with his wife, Carmina Montesa Aldana, founded the Jacksonville-based Neurosurgery Outreach Foundation to help close that health care gap.

A group of Jacksonville surgeons volunteer in the Philippines. (Image via Jacksonville Business Journal)

This trip, the Aldana’s were joined by a group of volunteers that included Ricardo Hanel, an endovascular neurosurgeon with Baptist Health and Lyerly Neurosurgery; H. Gordon Deen Jr., a neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic; and Karen Lidsky, another pediatric critical care physician with UF Health Jacksonville and Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

During their trip, the gave lectures to 50 Filipino health care providers, including 20 neurosurgeons, as well as $100,000 worth of donated surgical clips to treat aneurysms, a treatment unfamiliar in the Philippines. Also, more supplies and $15,000 for an indigent patient fund.

Working with Filipino colleagues, the group provided free surgical care to four children and four adults who had brain and spinal cord tumors, brain aneurysms, neck instability and hydrocephalus.

“It’s always something new,” Aldana told the Times-Union. “We never really know what cases we’ll encounter until a week or two before. … There is no shortage of cases.”

First Coast YMCA becomes Florida’s first Armed Services affiliate

The First Coast YMCA, partnering with the Armed Services YMCA, became the first affiliate in Florida – and one of 20 in the nation – in its mission to support service members and families in the Jacksonville military community.

First Coast YMCA. (Image via Jacksonville Business Journal)

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, First Coast YMCA has 12 branch locations across the five-county region, giving it a “unique position to serve as a central support system for Jacksonville’s military community.”

As an affiliate, First Coast YMCA can now provide armed service members and their families affordable access to wellness solutions, special rates for membership and summer camps for all military ranks, as well as free programs in Healthy Living Centers. Special rates are also available for all Honorably Discharged Service Veterans.

Cecil Spaceport tests prototype

Per the Jacksonville Business Journal: Atlanta-based Generation Orbit Launch Services Inc. tested a prototype liquid rocket engine at Cecil Spaceport.

By late 2019, the GOLauncher1 hypersonic flight test booster is expected to launch satellites from horizontal aircraft.

One of a half-dozen such facilities in the U.S., Cecil Spaceport is the only spaceport approved for horizontal launches on the East Coast.

Cecil Spaceport tests the GOLauncher1 hypersonic flight test booster. (Image via Generation Orbit)

The GO1 is “an affordable and flexible hypersonic testbed” for technology experiments in conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 8, according to a news release.

According to the Journal, GO1’s combustion engine, powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene, performed as expected during tests, the first of their kind to be conducted at Cecil. The engine test demonstrated a capability of cruising at Mach 6 at heights between 80,000 and 90,000 feet, a crucial point for hypersonic flight testing.

Jaguars fans will see more teal in 2018

If Jaguars fans like seeing their team sporting a different look from time to time, they will have the opportunity this year. The NFL has reportedly told all 32 teams they may wear alternate or throwback uniforms three times in 2018 as opposed to two last year.

Jacksonville changed their alternate uniform during the offseason, responding to those fans who have expressed their satisfaction with the teal look. Team management is equally pleased.

“True to our current identity and what we want to represent for years to come, our new uniforms are no-nonsense, all business and unmistakably Jaguars,” said owner Shad Khan. “Tradition has returned to Jacksonville.”

Teal and black are in this season.

At least one publication agrees with the fans. The Jaguars teal is ranked 11th best among those polled in a national ranking and easily the best among AFC South teams (Tennessee is next best at 21).

The question arises as to which games the Jags should wear the new look. A look back to 2017 shows they brought out the best in the Jaguars and worst in their opponents.

On November 5, they hounded the Cincinnati Bengals 23-7, with Jalen Ramsey nagging Bengals’ Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green into an ejection. On December 10, Seattle Seahawks’ defensive end Quinton Jefferson was ejected, then tried to go into the stands after a fan after Jacksonville’s 30-24 victory.

This publication suggests the best choices would be the home opener on September 16 vs. the Patriots, the October 28 game in London against Super Bowl champion Philadelphia, and the November 18 Sunday night home game against the Steelers. The pro football world will be focusing on all three games.

The best case against the home opener is a desire to wear white in the September late afternoon heat and force the Patriots to wear dark blue. In that case, the October 14 road game at Dallas or the December 16 home finale with Washington could be worthy substitutes.

Dike repair money coming amid algae woes

As calls grow for state action to deal with toxic algae blooms in Southeast and Southwest Florida, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced funding is in place to speed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.

The Army Corps’ Jacksonville office said Thursday that $514.2 million is heading toward repairs of the dike, which is basically a 30-foot-high earthen structure that surrounds the lake. An overall $17.4 billion in funding for the Corps includes additional money for beach restoration and coastal flood control in Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott and other state and federal officials from Florida have been clamoring for increased funding for the dike project, which had been scheduled for completion in 2025. The state approved $50 million in each of the past two years to speed up the federal project, which, with the newly announced money, is now expected to be done in 2022.

The dike money has become a political issue as Scott challenges Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November.

Through his campaign, Scott took the opportunity of the Army Corps’ announcement to criticize Nelson.

“In April 2017, I announced my goal of fixing the Herbert Hoover Dike by 2022,” Scott said in a statement from his campaign. “I’m glad to see that Bill Nelson finally supports my plan.”

Nelson, who in May 2017 was among Florida lawmakers pushing legislation to speed Everglades-restoration projects, spent Thursday in Fort Myers and Stuart talking about the algae issue and in a tweet called the Army Corps’ new dike timeline “huge news.”

The repairs are considered an essential step in allowing the lake to hold more water, which would reduce the need for discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee river estuaries to the east and west. Residents on both coasts blame polluted water releases from the lake for what has become an annual summer outbreak of toxic algae blooms in the rivers.

Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney tweeted that fast-tracking the dike repairs is “great news for FL waterways.” U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, another Florida Republican, said the funding “clears the deck” for officials to focus on other efforts to improve South Florida waters, including a planned reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area that is also aimed at helping prevent harmful discharges into the waterways.

On Thursday, state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, a Fort Myers Republican, wrote a letter to Scott requesting a state of emergency in the Lee County area due to red tide and blue-green algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee River and along the Southwest Florida coast.

“We must warn our residents and unsuspecting tourists of the potential risks of swimming, fishing, consuming fish caught from the Caloosahatchee or the Gulf waters and of any other recreational water sports during this outbreak,” Fitzenhagen wrote.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, on Friday urged Scott to issue an executive order hiring companies to remove algae on the lake’s surface.

The dike repair money is part of $3.348 billion in federal disaster recovery funds the Jacksonville office is getting to reduce flooding risks in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Florida is expected to see about $815 million of the federal money, with the bulk — more than $2.5 million — headed to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Florida is also getting money for coastal flood risk management in various areas, including Miami-Dade County, $158 million; St. Johns County, $36.8 million; Palm Beach County, $25 million; St. Lucie County, $20.3 million; Flagler County, $17.5 million; and Manatee County, $14.3 million.

Also, federal beach-hardening projects in Brevard, Broward, Duval, Lee, Nassau and Sarasota counties will each get $2 million.

Americans for Prosperity blasts Bob Buckhorn over Tampa Bay Rays deal

Conservative group Americans for Prosperity-Florida has long criticized taxpayer-funded sports stadiums, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ new ballpark is no exception.

A recent report found that the preferred site for the new stadium is in a tract of land that was recently designated as an “economic opportunity zone,” making it eligible for federal tax breaks. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says that the Ybor City tract’s designation isn’t just because of the stadium. While the report certainly sheds a little more light on who will pay for the Rays’ new home, AFP-FL isn’t a fan.

In a Thursday press release, the group slammed Buckhorn for expecting taxpayers to pay for most of the new stadium.

“The only ones who will benefit from this lopsided deal are crony politicians and the Rays’ ownership. The audacity of the team to insist that they will only pay for $150 million of a potentially $800 million project is emblematic of the entitled mentality that drives these corporate welfare schemes. Taxpayers deserve better,” AFP-FL said.

The economic opportunity designation allows for developers, stadium builders or otherwise, to delay paying federal taxes on certain investments or real estate sales if they invest in that zone.

Count Gov. Rick Scott among those “crony politicians,” too, as took the Governor pulling some strings to get the Ybor City tract added to the list of sites. Other sites had to apply for the designation and only about a third of applicants made the cut.

On sports stadiums, AFP-FL has maintained that taxpayer-funded incentives deals aren’t just “corporate welfare,” they’re financial losers.

A 2018 study from The Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research, a research arm of the Florida Legislature, found that state-level incentives deals for pro sports stadiums returns only 32 cents per tax dollar spent. An that was an increase from 2015, when that incentives program saw a return of about 30 cents on the dollar.

Rick Scott lambastes Bill Nelson for ‘toeing the party line’ on judicial nominations

Gov. Rick Scott‘s Senate campaign rarely goes more than a couple of days without a new ad, and the latest spots have excoriated incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for voting with the Democratic Party on judicial nominations.

The timing of these spots: no accident, as President Donald Trump has vowed to identify his next Supreme Court nominee Monday.

Following on the “Rubber Stamp” ad rolled out earlier this week, “Toe the Line” hammers home the likelihood that Nelson won’t support that nomination, linking it to a career record of voting with former Sen. Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, heeding “party bosses” in the bargain.

The spot also notes that Nelson did not oppose any of the 700+ judges nominated by Democratic presidents.

Lauren Schenone, the Scott campaign’s press secretary, asserts that Nelson’s position on Trump’s second high court nomination shows that the three-term senator “cares more about Democratic Party bosses than the Floridians he serves.”

“He toed the party line with Hillary Clinton, President Obama and hundreds of judicial nominations under democratic presidents — and just last week, Nelson admitted that he expects to vote against the Supreme Court nominee, before even knowing their name,” Schenone lamented.

This spot, which will air on TV and digital formats, is another indication of divergent strategies between the Scott and Nelson campaigns.

Scott has been more active with ad buys than has Nelson, who is holding his resources until later in the campaign season.

Joe Henderson: WWRSD (What Would Rick Scott Do)?

After being force-fed more Rick Scott commercials on TV than I can count, all I’ve really heard from the man who wants to be our next U.S. Senator is that Bill Nelson is (paraphrasing here) washed-up, tuckered-out, and devoid of new ideas.

One lady in a Scott ad allowed that Nelson seems like a good guy, but he has been around forever and so we ought to elect someone else.

Rick Scott approves that message, and that is basically all he has had to say:

Nelson bad, Nelson bad, Nelson bad.

Scott good?

Depends on your point of view I guess. And it does remind people that Scott has hammered his opponent in multiple ways, he hasn’t actually talked much about what he will do if he defeats Nelson.

Take the latest attack by the Scott camp, calling Nelson a Democratic “rubber stamp” for judicial appointments while Barack Obama was president.

It says that Nelson voted yea on more than 300 people Obama nominated for judgeships. He never voted to turn one down.

As reported in Florida Politics, Lauren Schenone, Press Secretary for Scott for Florida, said: “Bill Nelson’s voting history shows that he puts partisan politics before Floridians, even when it comes to something as important as judicial nominations,” said

“Bill Nelson didn’t vote against a single one of Obama’s judicial nominees, but he obeyed party leaders in voting against Supreme Court Justice (Neil) Gorsuch and decided to vote against a Florida judicial appointee he personally recommended once Chuck Schumer told him to. That’s because Bill Nelson isn’t in Washington to be a leader for Florida — he’s in Washington to be a rubber stamp for Democrats.”

Well, it’s true that Nelson recently decided to vote against confirming Allen Winsor for a spot on the Northern District of Florida court after initially saying he could support President Trump’s nominee. He said new information came before the Senate Judiciary Committee that caused him to change his mind.

Whether you buy that explanation or not, it really doesn’t matter. The decision is red meat for Scott’s campaign, as long as no thinks about the uncomfortable follow-up question that must be asked: WWRSD?

What Would Rick Scott Do?

I mean, you can’t decry your opponent for being a party-line rubber stamp unless you plan to go to Washington and turn over the tables with principled votes that go against, say, Mitch McConnell’s agenda.

And Scott wouldn’t do that — unless, of course, he had a high desire to be shunned by Senate leadership and shuffled off to the Subcommittee on Investigations into Possible Links Between Backgammon and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

With likely rare exceptions, Scott would dutifully push the green button on Republican-sponsored bills and red for anything offered by Democrats.

It’s how Washington operates, which explains why Scott hasn’t invested a lot of airtime and space on telling us what he will do if elected.

As the campaign goes on, I assume Scott and Nelson will get around specifics about what they hope to do for Florida.

Right now, though, the Scott strategy is to tag Nelson as often as possible as a Washington lightweight who does what the Democratic leadership tells him.

They’re betting no that, for now, one will ask Scott, “Why would you be any different?”

When that question eventually is asked, they’d better have a good answer that has more substance than, well, he’s not Bill Nelson.

Rick Scott awards final batch of ‘job growth’ dollars

As the state’s budget year came to an end, Gov. Rick Scott doled out the last of an initial $85 million pot of “job growth” dollars that lawmakers approved in an economic-development compromise.

In a news release late Friday, Scott’s office announced more than $16 million from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund would be set aside for six applicants, with the largest amount, $5.5 million, going for water, sewer and roadway improvements to assist the Florida Crossroads Commerce Park in Marion County.

The state’s 2017-2018 budget year ended Saturday. And with the new fiscal year starting Sunday, a second pool of $85 million immediately became available to Scott and — depending on how much he uses — his successor after Scott leaves office in January.

“I look forward to even more Florida communities benefiting from this accountable program, so every Floridian can find a great job right here in our state,” Scott said in a prepared statement announcing the latest grants.

The other new awards Friday were $4 million for the construction of a highway for an industrial warehouse and logistics facility in Hialeah; $3.02 million for a manufacturing training center at Immokalee Technical College in Collier County; $2.07 million for improvements to Atlantis Drive to support commercial development in Clay County; $1.9 million to develop a manufacturing training institute at Gulf Coast State College; and $135,000 to create a construction industry training program for high school and postsecondary students at Withlacoochee Technical College.

The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund was created in 2017 after a legislative battle about economic-development funding. Scott had sought $85 million for incentives that would be available through the business-recruitment agency Enterprise Florida. But led by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, lawmakers objected to money going directly to specific companies.

Under the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, money is required to go to regional projects, rather than individual businesses. The money is handled by the state Department of Economic Opportunity, which received more than 250 applications, collectively seeking $877 million in assistance, during the past fiscal year.

The creation of the fund drew concerns from some Democrats, who said it could become a “slush fund” for the governor.

Scott has made a series of announcements about awarding the initial $85 million. The announcement Friday from his office said the 33 proposals that have received grants are expected to provide a return on investment of “more than $321 million to taxpayers.”

Yet the number of jobs on the table is somewhat difficult to quantify, even though a question on the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund application seeks “a description of the number of jobs that will be retained or created.”

Based on the 33 applications that received funding, the money could be tied to nearly 100,000 jobs over the next decade.

But several factors play into the estimates from the applicants.

For example, often the numbers in applications involving college vocational training are based on estimates from business groups, which envision boosts in people landing jobs within a set number of years. Meanwhile, the impact of proposed new roads and infrastructure is often based on projections of commercial centers or businesses attracting new companies and employees.

Also, not every award from the fund matched the amounts of money requested.

In Marion County’s application, which sought $22 million, the state’s contribution is anticipated to help quickly get the Florida Crossroads Commerce Park underway.

The commerce park is envisioned as doubling the “success” of the Ocala/Marion County Commerce Park that “has seen the creation of nearly 1,500 jobs, 1.4 million square feet of new construction, and $270 million in capital investment.”

The amount eventually awarded was slightly more than the $4.97 million being put up by the county through sales and gas-tax revenues.

Other job projections also appear to raise questions.

Marianna, which received $1.99 million in March to extend a runway at Marianna Airport Commerce Park, estimated “hundreds, if not thousands” of new jobs, as the lengthened runway would help it compete against similar facilities in Georgia and Alabama.

St. Johns River State College, which on May 30 received nearly $1.4 million to expand an advanced manufacturing and robotics training program, noted in its application that employers in Clay, Putnam and St. Johns counties anticipate the program will directly support more than 100 new jobs. The application also said “the manufacturing sector provides thousands of good jobs and is anticipated to grow significantly over the next 10 years, with retirements and new growth due to the completion of the First Coast Expressway.”

Nearby, Florida State College at Jacksonville, which received $710,352 to enhance the Northeast Florida Advanced Manufacturing & Logistics Job Growth program, said it anticipates enrolling 75 participants, with 63 completing the program within one year, from which 80 percent — about 50 — will be placed in jobs.

The school also pointed out in its application that the First Coast Manufacturers Association said that “without this program, manufacturers will continue to struggle to find qualified workers, limiting the economic growth of our region and its people.”

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