Jacksonville Bold for 4.28.16 – A Tale of Two Cities

jacksonville port

Last Friday, a reporter with FloridaPolitics.com sat in on a meeting of the Economic Development Incentives Committee in City Hall. Of interest: a discussion of economically distressed areas.

Economically distressed areas were rated on four factors.

Income below the poverty line was one, with 20 percent being the demarcation point. 64 of 174 Duval County census tracts fall into that crack.

Unemployment equal to or greater than 15.5 percent, 125 percent higher than the 12.5 percent “real” unemployment rate over the last five years. 45 census tracts are on that list.

Median household income below $28,550 is a reality in 29 tracts. And median housing value below $86,401 is likewise real in 30 tracts.

Many census tracts satisfied all four conditions, when only three were required to be distressed.

Here are the two worst.

Census Tract 3, on the Eastside, has 51.2 percent of its residents below the poverty line, an 18 percent unemployment rate, and a $23,158 median household income.

Census tract 10, nearby, is even worse. 65.3 percent of residents fall below the poverty line, and 60.3 percent are unemployed. Median household income is below $11,000. Housing prices in these tracts are around $65K on average.

Your super-distressed areas are on the Eastside. Some also line I-10, south of I-295. There’s one in Arlington also.

All of these present existential problems. Problems for law enforcement, social services and so on. They are economic loss-leaders for the city.

And they are damned hard to turn around.

Jobs incentivized through QTI grants and the like generally target the creation of upper-middle-class jobs, which require specialized skills and higher education, of the sort people in the worst economic areas don’t have.

It’s not as if the city isn’t trying to bring jobs to the most disadvantaged areas. Novolex, a plastic bag manufacturer, is expanding on Jacksonville’s Westside in Health Zone 1, where health outcomes are closer to the Third World than the First. They’re doing so without public incentive money… in part because there are no public incentives to create working class jobs.

Project Rex, which you will read about below, will bring Amazon to Jacksonville (if the deal doesn’t fall through) and will create 1,500 jobs. 500 of them will have an average wage of $50K, and the other 1,000 will be the kind of semi-skilled jobs that people without advanced degrees, until recently in America and Jacksonville, could raise families on.

People used to have a saying: “the world needs ditch diggers too.” These days, though, the need for ditch diggers and other blue collar jobs has diminished. You don’t have to be Bernie Sanders to know that the working class works itself to death to stay afloat.

Incentivizing corporate relocation and expansion always make for a nice press avail with the Governor and city officials. The reality, in Jacksonville and other major cities, is that such measures don’t address, in direct ways, the kinds of inequities that lead to pressures on city budgets.

Finding a way to remedy that, and creating more jobs for members of the workforce without skills, needs to be a top priority for legislators and policy makers.

But it’s easier said than done.

Study finds critical lack of health care access in Jax” via Melissa Ross of Florida Politics – A new study finds (lack of) access, along with lack of knowledge about the available services is contributing to a wide range of health care needs and issues across Northeast Florida. The Jacksonville Metropolitan Community Benefit Partnership commissioned the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) study in 2015 to identify critical areas of health needs for communities across the region. The study found the community’s greatest needs are lack of transportation, nutrition and obesity, access to care, health disparities across populations, and mental health. Each hospital in the partnership plans to implement strategies to address these problems.

“GE Foundation commits $250K to Jax health screenings” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – One jarring example of those inequities: the issues in Health Zone 1, which are heartbreaking. Half of all children live in poverty. Two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. Less than a sixth of the population has post-secondary education. These are issues that cry out for resolution. It won’t be immediate. And it will take some help. And the GE Foundation is on it. GE, Tuesday, committed $250,000 for two years of Jacksonville health screenings, via the AGAPE Community Health Center Network (whose CEO is State Rep. Mia Jones). The money will allow screenings of those who need it the most, pushing preventive maintenance in order to preclude the stark reality: many of those who have cardiovascular issues that are unremedied end up getting treatment in emergency rooms. And for many, it is too late. Death comes for some. Incapacitation, for others.

Mounting debt crisis in Puerto Rico could threaten Jacksonville shipping trade” via Drew Dixon of the Florida Times-Union – Jacksonville’s shipping industry has a long history of trade with Puerto Rico but the U.S. territory is facing serious debt issues, and experts say if a solution isn’t found in a reasonable time, that could have negative implications for the First Coast. The Puerto Rican government has been grappling with a $422 million governmental debt payment that is due May 1. Efforts in Congress to provide debt restructuring have stalled and it now appears the May 1 deadline will not be met. The association between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico is so strong that former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton declared San Juan a sister city in October 2009. At that time, Puerto Rico was Jacksonville’s largest trading partner with about 75 percent of the goods going to and coming from Puerto Rico moving through Jacksonville, creating an estimated economic impact of $1 billion, a JaxPort report said. A blown May 1 deadline could push Puerto Rico and its 3.5 million American citizens further into crisis, exacerbating a growing fiscal and humanitarian disaster.

Worst news of the week — “Two Jacksonville Krispy Kreme stores to close” via Neal Bennett of WTLV

Marco Rubio calls on HUD to fix ‘faulty’ inspection process in Jacksonville” via Florida Politics – Rubio called on Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro to fix his agency’s “faulty” inspection process Wednesday after meeting with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Councilman Garrett Dennis. “What is happening in Jacksonville has unearthed a problem that must be resolved, and we remain committed to protecting the health and safety of residents living at these taxpayer-funded facilities,” Rubio said. In July 2015, Jacksonville’s Eureka Gardens Apartments complex got a passing grade of 85 out of 100 in a HUD inspection despite 340 of the complex’s 400 units having problems. Last month, after many repairs, Eureka Gardens received a 62 out of 100. In response to the uneven grading practices, Rubio asked Castro to reform HUD’s inspection process so issues in federally subsidized housing can be unearthed sooner and to expand the role of state and local partners to ensure greater accountability of HUD-certified facilities. The Republican Senator also praised Curry and Dennis, whom he called “leading voices” for the residents of the Jacksonville complex.

“HUD chief promises Lenny Curry support on substandard housing” via Lynnsey Gardner of WJXT Curry and Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis met Wednesday afternoon with the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington to discuss what Curry and others call deplorable living conditions at Eureka Gardens Apartments, Washington Heights and other properties in Jacksonville owned by Global Ministries Foundation … after the closed-door meeting, Curry said the HUD secretary was actively engaged for over an hour and promised the full resources of federal government to clean the mold at Eureka Gardens, and continuing providing help down the road.

Who said zoning is boring? via John Burr – The City of Jacksonville might need some better legal advice when it comes to zoning. Word came out this week from the Florida Times-Union that the U.S. Department of Justice has begun a housing discrimination investigation of a city decision to block construction of a much opposed homeless shelter in the Springfield neighborhood, north of Downtown. The city is already facing two lawsuits over that 2015 decision by the planning commission.

And also this week, the Zoning Commission turned down a zoning variance that would have allowed a 75-foot flagpole to fly adjacent to Interstate 295 after the man applying for the zoning variance, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he would fly a Confederate flag on the pole, in addition to an American flag and a POW/ MIA flag.

In the flag case, a city attorney counseled commission members that they could not turn down a zoning variance based on the content of the flag, but that seemed not to matter to one commission member, Abel Harding, who said he could not vote to approve the variance after learning that the Sons of Confederate Veterans have an ongoing statewide campaign to fly the Confederate flag in prominent locations.

In Springfield, the homeless shelter smackdown has drawn two lawsuits against the city – one from the organization seeking to build the center, the second from a disability rights advocacy group. And now the feds are scouring 30,000 pages of documents provided by the city to help determine if they will sue, too.

One feels for the folks in Springfield, who have been gamely fighting for at least 30 years to bring their neighborhood up from the ashes. This case rubs salt in some old wounds, as the historic neighborhood’s demise was aided by the placement of numerous homes for disabled people in need of housing before 2000. Problem is, it does not appear that any other neighborhood would welcome a homeless center, either.

Lenny Curry pitches pension tax referendum to Council – Curry asked if Council members had questions. There were none. Then Council President Greg Anderson offered to co-sponsor the bill, asking, by a show of hands, if others wanted to join in. Everyone but the absent Reggie Brown did so. The bill will be a one-cycle approval starting in Monday’s committees, and it is clear the entirety of Council (with the possible exception of Brown) is with him.

Iconic, historic building in Jacksonville infested with termites” via Kristen Dressel of Action News Jax – The Women’s Club of Jacksonville is adjacent to the Cummer Museum on Riverside Avenue. The museum had plans to renovate that building, but now they have to start from scratch. The building, which was built in 1927, was purchased by the museum in 2005. The museum itself is OK, but some of the trees in the area are also dealing with the problem. “We’ve been more focused on trying to understand the problem and then to share what we’ve learned about this infestation because it turns out, the historic districts throughout the country really in the southeast have been dealing with this and it’s very destructive,” said Hope McMath, Cummer Museum executive director. Since it is A historic building, the museum has to work with the state on the demolition, so there isn’t an exact date for the demolition, McMath said.

“Council approves ‘Project Rex’ incentives” via Max Marbut of JaxDailyRecord.com – In less than five minutes, City Council Tuesday approved $18.4 million in city and state incentives for “Project Rex,” an unnamed company that proposes to create 1,500 jobs at a $200 million state-of-the-art fulfillment center to be built in North Jacksonville. The city’s share of incentives is $13.4 million, including a Recapture Enhanced Value Grant of up to $10 million, to be paid in annual installments based on increases in real and tangible personal property. The city also is paying 20 percent of a Qualified Industry Tax Refund for 500 of the jobs, which will have an average annual salary of $50,000 … Based on the project summary and documents filed for roadway improvements for the 171-acre site near Duval and Pecan Park roads, the company is widely believed to be Amazon.com Inc. … construction of the facility would create 2,333 construction jobs and over the nine-year period of the incentive package and would improve Duval County’s economy by $1.95 billion, including $912 million in disposable income generated by the workforce.

Hotels left out of city human trafficking bill, for now” via Lindsey Kilbride of WJCT – Under a proposed bill, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office would issue $500 citations to businesses not in compliance. The state law requires strip clubs and massage parlors to post the signs. While JSO Undersheriff Pat Ivey said sex trafficking is prevalent in the 153 hotels in Jacksonville, which police could monitor, the five Council members … decided against that idea. The required sign displays a national human-trafficking hotline and urges victims to contact authorities. The bill will be heard in committees next week.

JAX CFO scores national budget award – Successful budgets, states the GFOA, must serve as a policy document, a financial plan, an operations guide and a communication device. In those four broad categories, there are 14 mandatory criteria that must be met. Since 2014, 1,491 of these awards have been issued nationally. Mike Weinstein, often given credit for the original proposal to amortize the city’s crippling pension debt and push toward fulfilling that obligation with the half-cent sales tax (subject to an August referendum), can take this as another recognition in a distinguished career.

“Jax Inspector General is leaving post” via Chris Hong of The Florida Times-Union – Jacksonville’s inspector general is resigning from the fledgling office less than a year after he was hired, according to a letter sent to City Council members. In his letter, Thomas Cline said he will step down next month and didn’t elaborate why…. since joining the office, council members and members of the committee that hired him have told him he needed to do a better job communicating to them what his office was doing… also unclear how his sudden departure will impact the office going forward. On Tuesday, Cline told council members he wanted to hire additional employees to keep up with the office’s growing workload. However, he’ll be gone when the council approves his budget this summer.”

“Construction on JTA’s $33M Regional Transportation Center expected to start in January” via Max Marbut of JaxDailyRecord.com – Nat Ford, CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, said Tuesday the $33 million Regional Transportation Center in LaVilla near the Prime Osborn Convention Center will begin with the new Greyhound station and be complete in 2019…. In addition to Greyhound, the facility will include a Skyway station, a new terminal for JTA’s fixed bus routes and a hub for the First Coast Flyer rapid transit bus system. Facilities for Megabus service between Jacksonville and Orlando, the Uber ride-sharing service and administrative offices for the authority also are on the site plan. ‘It will be our version of Grand Central Station, but on a little smaller scale,’ Ford said.

Todd Wilcox makes his mark in Jacksonville via A.G. Gancarski of FloridaPolitics.com — By all accounts, Wilcox’s Wednesday “friend raiser” in Jacksonville at the home of Peter Rummell was a success, say our sources in the room. Fifty of what are being called “important conservatives and Republican power brokers in Northeast Florida” were on hand, including Michael Munz, Marty FiorentinoHusein CumberSteve HalversonRick MoralesJason Fischer, and Neal Freeman, a contributor to NationalReview.com… Moderates and conservatives bought in. Wilcox’s trip to Jacksonville, by all accounts, was a success. He made some undecided high-information stakeholder voters take a hard look at him as a viable candidate, after doing strong interviews with local media and FloridaPolitics.com. With four months remaining until the primary, he (despite odds working against him in terms of Name ID) is doing the right things, becoming a player in this race.

One more try: Corrine Brown appeals districting case to Supremes via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – Brown may need to raise more money for her legal fund soon, as she appealed her redistricting case to the United States Supreme Court Monday. Brown, who was ahead slightly in a poll we commissioned this week in the redrawn Congressional District 5, nonetheless is revisiting her challenge of the east-west configuration of the district, which she has contended ignores the “communities of interest” in the previous CD 5, and which she has said will not elect an African-American to Congress.

Curtis Ceballos, Palm Coast Democrat, challenges Travis Hutson in SD 7 via – Ceballos’ company develops apps for mobile phones, including secure payment applications such as Digitz (“the first fingerprint purchase system”), and apps that permit voice posting to social media platforms. As one would expect in that sector, Ceballos is a startup kind of guy, and his campaign will fit that model, being heavy on the grassroots outreach, including one-on-one conversations and small contributions in accordance with what the candidate called the “volume theory.” To make that message resonate in a heavily Republican district against an incumbent with considerable family resources and business connections, Ceballos will have to take his message to the people. “I don’t have the money the Hutsons have to dump into a campaign fund,” Ceballos said, so his appeal will be to those who “hear my voice and see my face.”

If Reggie Fullwood is out of HD 13 race, Rahman Johnson is in – FloridaPolitics.com hears that interested parties might be ready to move on from Fullwood … Our tipster, a reliable source, laid it out: Fullwood is not running for re-election (an assertion which Fullwood simply did not comment on) … Meanwhile, Johnson, a friend and former campaign operative of Fullwood’s, has been talking to ‘big funders in Tallahassee” about HD 13, after people matching that description reached out to him … ‘I have been contacted by a few friends and supporters about representing the district if [Fullwood] doesn’t run. If he decides not to seek re-election, I am strongly considering making my case to represent District 13 in Tallahassee,’ Johnson said.

Nasty divorce, foreclosure woes still dog HD 14 Dem Kim Daniels” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – Daniels, who has already qualified for the HD 14 ballot, is fortunate to have that much behind her… especially given that her divorce from fellow minister Ardell Daniels, which was a narrative in her campaign for City Council re-election, is still an issue in her current 2016 race … Ardell and Kim Daniels have a divorce mediation April 27, with court ordered updated financials on husband, wife and Daniels’ Spoken Word Ministries due Wednesday in Broward County. This comes as Ardell Daniels fights eviction from their $1 million home, which is tax exempt due to the ministry. And that million-dollar manse is in full-blown foreclosure with a hearing scheduled in two weeks. Regarding the home, which led to serious questions about Daniels’ Jacksonville residency that weren’t fully answered during her previous run for office in Jacksonville, Kimberly Daniels has already managed to remove two of the three residents, Tiffoni Daniels and Cardell Brantley from the property via a “writ of ejectment.” Now, Ardell’s attorney claims, Kimberly is seeking a “writ of possession against ‘all’ defendants living at the subject property.” Ardell is fighting the action, claiming that it is illegal and that he “should not be removed.”

Duval County Beach Community leaders continue to rally behind Tom Taylor – Just days after nearly the entire Jax Beach elected leadership endorsed his campaign for House District 11, Republican Taylor picked up three more key endorsements from the beaches community in Duval County: Neptune Beach City Councilman Scott Wiley; Atlantic Beach Mayor Mitch Reeves and Atlantic Beach City Commissioner Mitch Harding. Earlier in the week, Taylor was endorsed by Charlie Latham, Jacksonville Beach Mayor, Jacksonville Beach councilmembers Christine HoffmanKeith DohertyBruce Thomason (who is also former Chief of Police), Phil Vogelsang and Lee Buck.

JAXBIZ rolls out first wave of 2016 endorsements  The JAXBIZ Board co-endorsed Richard Clark and Terrance Freeman in District 12, which many will see as a lack of confidence in Freeman’s viability, as he is the council assistant for JAXUSA Partnership VP Aaron Bowman. … In District 14, the board went with Leslie Scott Jean-Bart. … And in HD 19, the board went with Katherine Van Zant over Leslie Dougher.

NEFAR announces endorsements — The trend tends to be toward established commodities … though there are some exceptions. In HD 11’s GOP primary, NEFAR chose Cord Byrd … In HD 12’s GOP primary, former two-term Jacksonville City Councilman Clay Yarborough got the nod in a crowded field. … In the HD 14 Democratic primary, former state legislator Terry Fields got the NEFAR nod… In HD 16, another veteran hand, former Councilman Dick Kravitz, got NEFAR’s backing … In HD 19, a mild surprise: former RPOF chair Leslie Dougher, under financed comparatively speaking, got NEFAR’s backing over money leader Katherine Van Zant.

Happening Saturday – Republican House District 19 candidate Katherine Van Zant invites friends and supporters to a barbecue and bluegrass event honoring Florida Department of Correction officers. Event begins 4 p.m. at the Thousand Oaks Ranch, corner of CR 237 and CR 18, 21142 SW County Road 237 in Brooker.

Save the date – The Flagler County Republican Club holds its 2016 Flagler Supervisor of Elections forum Wednesday, May 4, with current Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenart and candidates Kim Medleyand Abra Seay. Event will be held at the Palm Coast Community Center, 305 Palm Coast Pkwy. NE. in Palm Coast. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., meeting begins at 6 p.m. All registered Republicans are invited.

Tax trouble for Wes White? 4th Circuit State Attorney candidate says ‘No’ via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – White had a federal tax lien from the 2005 filing year that took until 2007 to resolve … The “unpaid balance of assessment” totaled $47,125.94. White … called it “old history” and said that he “paid it within 60 days.” The issue was a family illness. “It was the year my mother was sick,” White related, “and I spent a lot of time taking care of her in South Florida.” Compounding the situation: White claims his accountant said that he filed, but didn’t document it. “It was almost immediately discharged,” said White, who added that most people would want to be in the situation where they owed that much for taxes in one year. “I owe the U.S. government nothing … Unfortunately, they have the power to enforce payments.”

AppointedKelly Eckley to the Duval County Court.

Patricia Barksdale, William Jung, Philip Lammens nominated for Florida federal judgeships — The three Florida nominees: Judge Patricia D. BarksdaleWilliam F. Jung, and Judge Philip R. Lammens. Barksdale and Jung are nominated to the Middle District of Florida; Lammens, the Northern District … Barksdale, a University of Florida Levin School of Law grad with experience as in-house counsel for CSX and as a barrister for Jacksonville firm McGuire Woods, has been a Middle District magistrate judge since 2013 … Jung, a graduate of the University of Illinois School of Law, was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist from 1984 to 1985 … Lammens, a Magistrate Judge in the Northern District since 2012, is another Levin School of Law Graduate who was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Middle District of Florida. In the 1990s, Lammens worked in the Jacksonville Office of General Counsel.

Cushman & Wakefield names new director of industrial brokerage services” via Derek Gilliam of the Jacksonville Business Journal – Cushman & Wakefield has announced the appointment of Larry Kahn as a director in its industrial brokerage services group. Kahn will work out of the Orlando office because of its central location in the state, but will be focused on “rail-served industrial real estate, specializing in site selection and bringing rail-served properties to market.

Controversial write-in candidate enters Clay superintendent race; 2012 scenario could be repeated this year” via Teresa Stepzinski of the Florida Times-Union – A write-in candidate is running against his friend – Clay County schools Superintendent Charlie Van Zant Jr. – in what could become a repeat of a controversial election tactic that angered and disenfranchised thousands of Clay County voters who were blocked from casting ballots in the 2012 Republican primary that resulted in Van Zant’s winning his first term. Fred S. Gottshalk of Orange Park lists his party affiliation as Republican although he is running as write-in candidate for the Nov. 8 general election, according to an April 21 campaign financial disclosure document filed with the Clay County Supervisor of Elections Office. Now as then, there is public perception – fueled by Van Zant critics on social media – that he is behind Gottshalk’s candidacy in an effort to secure re-election by ensuring the Republican primary remains closed to Democrat and independent voters. Van Zant, who is running for re-election to his second four-year term, said in an email to the newspaper that he hadn’t spoken to Gottshalk about his candidacy.

Cabinet OKs land buy in St. Johns County” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – More than 5,000 acres in St. Johns County have been set aside for conservation … Scott and the Florida Cabinet approved spending nearly $6 million toward the wooded land. State officials want to add the tract to the St. Johns River Blueway Florida Forever project. The move is supported by conservationists. The North Florida Land Trust’s Jim McCarthy and Eric Draper of Audubon Florida spoke in favor of the proposal at the meeting. The state isn’t buying the property outright, but getting a “conservation easement.” That’s “a legally binding agreement that … prevents development from taking place on the land in perpetuity while the land remains in private hands,” the Nature Conservancy’s website explains.

School board reviews legislative platform; challenges ahead” via Emelia Hitchner of the St. Augustine Record – The St. Johns County School Board reviewed 2016 Legislative Platform outcomes at a board workshop Tuesday and discussed challenges the district must confront in the upcoming school year … Beth Sweeny, coordinator of governmental relations for the district, said there was no movement in this year’s legislative session regarding an increase in Public Education Capital Outlay funds for high-growth school districts … Base Student Allocation, the per-student amount supporting the state school funding system, increased only $6 to $4,160.71. “That’s still $68.45 below the 2007-2008 level,” Sweeny said. A statewide $20 million increase to $80 million for the Digital Classrooms Allocation raised the minimum district amount from $250,000 to $500,000. But board members agreed the amount might not cover the number of devices required in each school to administer the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) to an entire grade at the same time.

Discovery of sunken ship’s data recorder could settle million-dollar legal questions via John Burr – The discovery of the data recorder for the sunken Jacksonville-based ship El Faro, which went down in October during a hurricane, is a blessing – as noted by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson – for the families of the 33 crew member who perished.

But let’s not forget the lawyers. There is much money to be potentially won and lost, depending on what the data recorder reveals about the last hours of the ship’s voyage.

Here’s the conventional wisdom of what happened: The captain of the El Faro, to sidestep Hurricane Joaquin, altered course and would have escaped the storm but for one critical mishap – a hatch blew, and a portion of the ship flooded. Then the engines went out, and with the ship dead in the water, the strengthening hurricane overtook the 790-foot cargo ship near the Bahamas.

That series of events works as far as it goes, but in the world of legal liability, key questions remain shrouded. Such as: Did the captain react to the hurricane quickly enough, or should he have altered course sooner, or turned the ship around? Why did the hatch blow open – can that be attributed to poor maintenance of the ship?  What was the exact series of events that resulted in the ship sinking, and in what time sequence did they occur? Were safety procedures followed in efforts to save the crew?

Safety officials will tell you, from their perspective, the answers to these question are useful to avoid future maritime disasters. But to the lawyers, it’s all about assessing blame, and determining whether the sinking was caused by a series of mistakes that could and should have been avoided, or whether the ship and its crew fell victim to a horrendous and unavoidable chain of events.

The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board will resume hearings on the disaster May 16-27 in Jacksonville. It’s possible that information from the data recorder will be available by then.

What Julie Delegal Is Reading

— “Survey data show increases in student depression, suicidal thoughts in Duval County” via Tessa Duvall of the Florida Times Union – The youth risk-behavior survey results from 2015 are in, and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the data was “not just numbers,” but “children,” and called the findings “horrifying.” From the article: “More than one in four Duval County middle school students and nearly one in five high school students surveyed said they have seriously considered suicide, according to a report released Monday that highlighted a second consecutive survey year for increases in suicidal thoughts and depression.” Florida ranks 49th among states in mental-health funding, and Northeast Florida is the second-lowest-funded area statewide.

— “Duval schools see fewer arrests following policy changes via Denise Smith Amos of the Florida Times Union – This time last year, school police had made 166 arrests; this year, it’s down to 102. Superintendent Vitti says that a change in policing strategies, adhering more closely to the code of conduct, changes in school culture, training, and restorative justice programs have contributed to the decrease.

— “Duval School Board will vote Tuesday on whether to add college board testing to its calendar, pay for tests via Denise Smith Amos of the Florida Times Union  One measure would pay for and require all juniors to take the ACT, and the other proposal would pay for and require all sophomores to take the PSAT, or Pre-SAT.

— “Fletcher High School’s Mock Trial Team will compete at nationals in Boise, Idaho” via Lindsay Kilbride of WJCT – The team won all five of its mock trial rounds in Orlando in March. Fletcher has participated in the national mock-trial competition three times over the past 20 years; they placed 11th in 2014, in a competition that comprises mostly private schools with “more resources.” The team has raised half of the $10,000 needed for the trip, which is slated for next month.

— “Failure Factories and School Equity in Florida” via Context Florida.

— “ ‘You need algebra!’ says who?” via Bob Driver for Context Florida – Driver says that in his varied (although undistinguished) academic career, algebra was the only course that made him weep.Read why Bob believes that passing Algebra is not the educational “gateway” it’s made out to be.

Ancient tortoise shell found at Milltop site” via the St. Augustine Record – Carl Halbirt, St. Augustine city archaeologist, uncovered a shell of a gopher tortoise during an excavation at the site of the Milltop Tavern on St. George Street in St. Augustine. Halbirt and his team uncovered the shell, which he dates to the early 1700s, in a trash pit. Halbirt plans to preserve and study the find. The Milltop, which was built in 1888, was demolished in March.

“Donnie Horner stepping down as JU AD” via the Florida Times-Union – Jacksonville University Athletics Director Dr. Donnie Horner is leaving his position at the end of the month, but will remain a business professor at the school. Horner will be replaced by Senior Associate Athletic Director of Administration Alex Ricker-Gilbert. Horner has served as the school’s AD for the past two years. In the past year, he has hired a new football coach and extended the contracts of the JU men’s and women’s basketball coaches.

Rare weekend off for Jacksonville Armada” via Kartik Krishnaiyer – The Jacksonville Armada FC will enjoy a rare weekend off from NASL competition before preparing for a midweek game against FC Edmonton Wednesday, May 4. The club have had a mixed start to the 2016 NASL Spring Season winning once, losing once and drawing once. The quick takeaway from the three matches is that Armada FC play very well for spot in each game but don’t have the consistency in midfield to use whatever possession advantage the team has to put the opposition to the sword so to speak. Part of the reason for this is the final product from either the wide players when crossing into the area of the midfielders playing probing balls is lacking. Jacksonville boasts a double pivot in central midfield of Kevan George and Richie Ryan – arguably the best such combination in the league but the players in wide areas and up top have been hit or miss.  Beginning Wednesday, the Armada FC will play five league matches in addition to a minimum of one Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match the next 30 days. It will be a busy period and for a team that has shown flashes of brilliance mixed with frustrating mistakes finding consistency will be the key for Coach Tony Meola‘s side. Jacksonville already sits eight points behind league leaders Carolina in NASL Spring Season table but have a match in hand and still face the RailHawks. So in theory if Meola’s side can get hot and go on a run the Spring title is still possible.

Why this year’s TPC will be bigger and better than ever” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – On Wednesday, the Jax Chamber provided a well-timed reminder of its economic impact on the Jacksonville area. The estimate for this year’s impact on the five-county Northeast Florida area: $151 million, from 191,000 attendees. And beyond the tangible economic impact, there are intangibles, such as the over 400 local, national, and international businesses that use the tournament to network, entertain clients and build relationships. There’s also the partnership between the TPC and 350 local businesses, creating nearly 2,000 jobs during the TPC.

Happy belated birthday to The Fiorentino Group’s Mark Pinto.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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