Jacksonville Bold for 5.20.16 – Will voters punish Angela Corey and Matt Shirk for closing primaries?

write in vote

One of the unique features of the Extensive Enterprises media empire: a propensity to interview long shot candidates, particularly in coverage of Northeast Florida.

Florida Politics has reached out to tertiary candidates during the most recent cycles, as well as the 2015 Jacksonville municipal elections.

Questions always come down to variations on a theme: Why are you running? What do you want to accomplish? What is your raison d’etre?

The revealing thing, often, is that candidates aren’t able to answer these fundamental questions.

It’s telling when a candidate for the Legislature is asked what he wants to accomplish … and he can’t answer.

Likewise, it’s equally telling when asking candidates for public defender and state attorney what makes them a better bet than entrenched incumbents — with their people and systems already in place — and they can’t answer.

That happened recently with 4th Circuit write-ins for public defender and state attorney – Roland Falcon and Kenny Leigh – both closing open primaries just before the qualifying deadline.

Falcon talked to both Florida Politics and the Florida Times-Union, and he still couldn’t think of a bad thing to say about incumbent Matt Shirk, who, in fact, wrote him a letter of recommendation for a post in 2008.

Why was he running? For name recognition? Why not run for judge, since six judges are running unopposed. He could have run against them, right?

Then there’s Kenny “Men Only. Family Law Only. Write-In Only” Leigh.

Leigh’s vying for state attorney, against incumbent Angela Corey. Corey’s campaign manager, Alexander Pantinakis, filed Leigh’s campaign paperwork for him in Tallahassee, a short time after Melissa Nelson filed hers.

It took Pantinakis only three days to come clean, claiming he filed the Clay County lawyer’s papers in his capacity as a Duval GOP committeeman.

This revelation came hours after Corey opened her campaign headquarters bemoaning negative campaigning from the other side; talking about how “there’s not a thing [my opponents] can throw at us that we can’t say is legal, moral and ethical.”

Corey’s campaign manager gave her opponents the sword. But do they know how to use it? And will voters care?

Yes, they do.

The team backing Nelson are the sample people who seemed to have ended Alvin Brown’s interest in elected office. People liked Alvin Brown, at least as long as they weren’t voting on his budgets.

Nelson’s team has a PAC, “First Coast Values,” and they should have big money.

They should use that PAC for daily mailers to likely voters, depicting “Liberal Angela Corey” or whatever is necessary to secure one more term.

Likewise, Charles Cofer’s side needs to find a way to do the same to Shirk and Roland Falcon. It’s the same situation: a put up job. Cofer has the money advantage against Shirk; how will he deploy resources?

The closed primaries are obviously meant to protect vulnerable incumbents. Paradoxically, closing the primary denotes their vulnerability.

Republican voters should never have had to give Falcon or Leigh any thought. Incumbents introduced the two to the discourse. Melissa Nelson and Cofer, two legit challengers in the race, should not let GOP voters forget.

Falcon should be an anchor on Shirk; Leigh, on Corey. That is if hit pieces are done right.

Black voters should be enraged” via Ron Littlepage of the Florida Times-Union – Everyone should take offense that supporters of incumbents Corey and Shirk employed a legal but devious scheme to close the election to Republican voters only. But African-Americans should take the greatest offense. A large percentage of the defendants prosecuted by Corey’s office are African-American. The same is true of those defended by Shirk’s office. As most African-American are registered Democrats, they won’t have a voice in determining who will fill those critical jobs unless they switch their registration to Republican to be able to vote Aug. 30. Add this nefarious tactic to efforts by Gov. Rick Scott and his Republican allies in Tallahassee to reduce the number of minorities voting, is there any wonder African-Americans suspect a return to the days of Jim Crow?

Using write-in candidates to close primaries is voter disenfranchisement” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – [The] manipulation of elections laws concerning write-in candidates … keeps hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Floridians from having a say in who represents them. This is voter disenfranchisement by definition, and both Republican and Democratic candidates have used it to their benefit. The latest example came last week in Jacksonville. Under Florida law, if all the candidates on the ballot have the same party affiliation and the winner will have no opposition in the general election, then all voters are allowed to cast ballots in the primary. State law also allows candidates to qualify as write-ins relatively easily: They don’t have to gather petition signatures or pay hefty fees like traditional candidates. That combination created a perfect workaround for limiting voting in primaries to members of a single party, one that’s been used across the state … legislative candidates have used write-in candidates to keep their primaries closed so that only voters of the same party can vote. Republicans do it. Democrats do it. Many of these write-in candidates don’t raise money or show up to voter forums. However, by submitting paperwork that creates a blank line on the general election ballot, they ensure that at least some voters within that district won’t have a say in who is elected.

Constitutional amendment needed for closed primaries tactic” via the Florida Times-Union editorial board – According to a 1998 constitutional amendment, if there are only members of one political party qualified to vote, then primaries would be open to all voters … So candidates file as write-ins to close the primary. The general election then becomes a formality with one candidate’s name on the ballot next to space to write in a candidate’s name … Closing a race to only Republicans shuts out a lot of voters. This clearly is not what voters intended. Simple, right? Not so fast. So how did the Constitutional Amendment become distorted? Katherine Harris … got in the act … She issued a ruling that write-in candidates count as opposition, thus closing the election. And the Florida Supreme Court validated the issue by ruling that write-in candidates have the same basic rights and duties as other candidates on the ballot. Bottom line, this is certainly is not what voters had in mind when they approved the constitutional Amendment to open up primaries to all voters.

Let’s close the phony write-in candidate loophole” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat – A far more pernicious feature of Florida’s election law is a little wrinkle, inserted by the Division of Elections rather than by the Legislature, which permits pseudo write-in candidates to close a Democratic or Republican Primary … the Secretary of State’s office interpreted this to mean a write-in candidate is, legally, a tangible alternative – even though, in reality, few are serious candidates. The law, in its majesty, may not distinguish between the unknown Lincoln, who can’t afford the qualifying fee, and the lunatic who advocates seceding from the Union again. Nor can our law say who is a sincere write-in representing a deeply felt cause, and who’s just exploiting the Division of Elections rule to help one of the real contenders in a primary. You don’t have to be overly suspicious to believe … write-in candidacy might be aimed at helping the challenger. Once they file their paperwork, write-in candidates don’t have to do anything else. They can sign up and go on vacation, for all it matters. It’s too late to change it this year, but it would be an easy fix for the Legislature to let everybody vote in a one-party primary race. Former Sen. Dave Aronberg used to offer bills every session overriding the Secretary of State’s ruling and spelling out that the presence of write-in candidates in November does not close a primary in the summer.

Activists call on write-in candidates to drop out of state attorney, public defender races” via Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-Union – A group of activists gathered outside the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office pledged to keep pressure on write-in candidates who closed the primaries for state attorney and public defender. The New Florida Majority, a voting rights advocacy group, organized the rally and others also attended. State Sen. Audrey Gibson said the Legislature must change the laws regarding closed primaries … Gibson and Moné Holder, director of New Florida Majority’s north regional office, called on the write-in candidates to withdraw from the race.

Republican Bill McClure formally announces his CD 4 run via Florida Politics – Sounding populist themes similar in tenor to what he said last month, McClure, a Republican, opined: “Congress is broken. And electing the same kind of career politicians who are focused on what’s politically correct won’t fix it. “That’s why we need someone who’s done more than just run for re-election — someone with a proven record in the private sector of tackling tough problems, speaking their mind, and creating jobs to build a bright future for our children and grandchildren … The last thing we need in Washington is another politician looking out for his next re-election or how to pay back one of his fat cat lobbyist buddies … That’s not how you do things in the real world. I’m running for Congress because I think we need a businessman, not another politician, to take on the serious challenges facing America.” McClure is one in a crowded field of Republican hopefuls, including former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, Rep. Lake Ray and perennial candidate Deborah Pueschel. Additionally, Democrat Eric Smith announced his plans to run.

“Eric Smith is running in CD 4 Democratic primary” via Florida Politics — Smith, a Jacksonville Democrat and City Council mainstay of the 20th century, told the Florida Times-Union he would run in Congressional District 4 … Smith, who last served on Jacksonville’s City Council in 1999, narrowly lost a special election to Ronnie Fussell for an at-large seat on council in 2005. He followed that up with a 2010 loss for Duval County School Board to Becki Couch, who beat him 56 percent to 23 percent.

“Corrine Brown says she has enough petitions to qualify for re-election bid” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – She may have fought valiantly against the newly drawn district, but now that the courts have ruled … Brown is moving forward with a re-election bid. Brown announced she has gathered enough petitions to qualify to be on the ballot for the August primary. Her main challenger, former state Sen. Al Lawson, met his petition goal last month. The district stretches from Jacksonville to Tallahassee and is drawn in a way that an African-American Democrat is likely to win.

“Citizens United Political Victory Fund endorses conservative Pat Mooney in CD 6” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics  – “Mooney is a true conservative citizen-politician. He’s running for Congress because he’s concerned about the dangerous direction out of touch career politicians are taking our country,” says David N. Bossie, president of Citizens United. “The last thing residents of the 6th Congressional District of Florida need is a career politician with stale ideas representing them … Mooney is an outsider who is ready to tackle our national debt crisis, fix our broken immigration system, and simplify our impossible tax code, once and for all.”

Tom Taylor proves he is the community candidate in District 11 House race” via a press release – In April, Taylor was endorsed by 10 elected officials, four religious leaders, and over 50 businesses. These endorsements included; Charlie Latham, Jacksonville Beach Mayor; Christine Hoffman, Jacksonville Beach Councilwoman; Keith Doherty, Jacksonville Beach Councilman; Bruce Thomason, Jacksonville Beach Councilman and former Chief of Police; Phil Vogelsang, Jacksonville Beach Councilman; Lee Buck, Jacksonville Beach Councilman; Scott Wiley, Neptune Beach City Councilman; Mitch Reeves, Atlantic Beach Mayor; Mitch Harding, Atlantic Beach City Commissioner; Bill Gulliford, former Atlantic Beach Mayor and Jacksonville Council President; Bishop Percy Golden of the Revival Center; Reverend Don Lynn, Retired Chaplin Baptist Hospital; Don Jacobs of BEACH Church, and Father William A. Kelly, retired priest of St. Paul’s Catholic Church. Taylor’s campaign launched their new

Debate in Reggie Fullwood case: Who’s the victim?” via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union – Attorneys have been sparring since last week about releasing any information beyond the April 15 indictment that charged the Jacksonville Democrat with 10 counts of wire fraud and not filing income tax returns for four years. “There is a missing ‘fact’ that is critical to informing the defendant of the charges against him,” attorney Robert Willis argued in a filing that asked for a more detailed statement of charges called a bill of particular. The indictment said Fullwood moved money — “embezzled” was the word prosecutors used — out of an election campaign bank account into one for a now-closed business he ran, Rhino Harbor LLC. Fullwood used the money for personal expenses at restaurants, a jewelry store, and other places, the indictment said. But Willis said prosecutors apparently aren’t counting people who gave money to Fullwood’s campaign as victims, and that leaves an open question. “From whom or what were the funds allegedly ‘embezzled’?” Willis asked as part of a set of dueling legal papers the two sides have exchanged.

— “Daniel Evans becomes third Republican to run in House District 13” via Florida Politics

Business groups back Cyndi Stevenson for House District 17” via a press release – Stevenson announced several endorsements from prominent pro-business organizations. The Florida Chamber of Commerce, JAXBIZ, and the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors are all backing Stevenson for re-election …  In addition to its endorsement, Stevenson also earned a grade of A+ on the Florida Chamber’s 2016 Legislative Scorecard. “The Florida Chamber has a long-standing reputation of only endorsing those candidates who are brave enough to place Florida’s long-term future before short-term and politically popular fixes,” said Marian Johnson, Senior Vice President of Political Operations for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “It’s these candidates that will help ensure Florida continues to create jobs and economic opportunity, and we are proud to support each of them in their efforts.” Stevenson is also the District 17 choice of JAXBIZ, the nonprofit, nonpartisan political organization affiliated with Jax Chamber …  the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors (NEFAR) is also backing Stevenson’s bid.

“Marco Rubio talks HUD reform in floor speech” via Florida Politics – A message to HUD slumlords, such as Global Ministries Foundation, which operates in Jacksonville: Rubio is not done with you. In a floor speech regarding H.R. 2577, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act, Rubio reiterated his issues with HUD and its policies, which have led to institutional neglect around the country, describing four key amendments to correct issues he’s seen … Rubio then described his amendments, requiring a shortening of notification time from 30 days to 15 days, citing gas leaks at Eureka as a prime driver. Another amendment: ‘fixing the inspection process in HUD.’ A third: ‘giving state and local governments more say’ regarding the contractual process … The Fourth Amendment: ‘tenant protection vouchers,’ allowing relocation assistance for tenants.

Rubio offers amendments to reform HUD oversight for apartments like Eureka Garden” via the Florida Times-Union – The first two amendments passed a voice vote … Rubio said: “The passage of these amendments is an important first step to reforming HUD’s inspection process so that the health and safety of residents is top priority. They will require the agency and property owners to respond more quickly when problems arise, and help prevent project-based section 8 housing from falling through the cracks in the future. Additionally, state and local governments should have increased oversight‎ so that residents are protected from slumlords who are profiting off taxpayer dollars. ‎ I am committed to making these key improvements and fighting for residents throughout the country like those at Eureka Garden who deserve better from our housing system.”

Eureka Garden owner says Rubio’s attacks are intended to hurt HUD Secretary Julian Castro politically” via Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-Union – Global Ministries Foundation, the nonprofit that owns Eureka Garden and five other Jacksonville apartment complexes, criticized Rubio for calling for a criminal investigation last week into the apartment owners. This is despite the fact that Rubio hasn’t publicly criticized Castro. “The false accusations against GMF and political grandstanding against HUD Secretary Castro by federal and local politicians may have more to do with Secretary Castro’s name being mentioned for national office than with a genuine interest in Floridians’ need of safe and affordable housing,” the nonprofit’s statement said, “given that Senator Rubio failed to acknowledge the tremendous improvements GMF has made since acquiring the long-troubled property only three years ago.”

Tweet, tweet: @LennyCurry: Baseless, shameful stmt by GMF. Consistent w how they operate. Real shame/outrage remains on living conditions. … people, babies living in mold infested homes, boarded doors w exposed nails should keep GMF up at night. Sadly, seems they sleep well

Lenny Curry’s sales tax is the best option available to resolve pension crisis” via the Florida Times-Union – Jacksonville needs certainty when it comes to its pension crisis. We need a certain stream of revenue that can’t be touched by future politicians. We need a guarantee that current unaffordable pension plans will be shut down. We need to know that current employees will have to contribute more to pensions. Firefighters and police officers need to know that they have a reliable pension that is affordable and competitive. All of this can happen if Jacksonville voters approve Mayor Lenny Curry’s proposed sales tax. Curry is right when he told the Times-Union editorial board, “It is absolutely the crisis of our time for the city.”

Jacksonville’s Pension Puzzle – Lack of details, elusive cost target makes for difficult sell” via John Burr – Questions needing answers before the Aug. 30 vote to extend the city’s half-cent sales tax for another 15 to 30 years.

  • How can a tax extension that won’t provide new funds until 2030be used to reduce the city’s pension costs in the next year or two?
  • How much money in the city budget could be freed up by this new revenue for other uses, and how soon would that happen?
  • Why do the projected costs of paying off the city’s massive $2.9 billion police and firefighter’s pension shortfall keep changing, by as much as $100 million or more in some years?

So far, answers offered by City Hall to these questions are variations of “it’s complicated” and “trust us.”

That won’t cut it. Voters deserve more from City Hall before they take up the sales tax extension question Aug. 30.

Curry acknowledged as much to Florida Politics last week. ‘I will be running a very aggressive campaign to make sure people are educated on the Issue,” Curry said.

He had better. A new University of North Florida poll found that 40 percent of respondents either did not know or did not respond when asked if they would vote for the tax extension.

Curry has said he expects civic leaders to raise over $1 million to pay for a campaign to sell the tax extension to voters.

Fear could be part of the campaign. ­Curry told Florida Politics that if the tax is not extended, other city leaders could start pushing for a 30 percent property tax hike.

After an impressive campaign to get the Florida Legislature to approve the tax extension, it would be a damaging blow to Curry’s administration to have voters reject the half-cent sale tax extension.

More specifics and fewer veiled threats from City Hall would go a long way to obtain the outcome Curry’s team has worked so hard to secure.

“Slots in Jacksonville?” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union The bill was filed by Councilman Aaron Bowman … and will be introduced at the May 24 council meeting, meaning it could be up for final approval as early as June 21. Susie Wiles, who represents bestbet on the issue, said the referendum would be the first step toward adding slots to its existing facility on Monument Road that is the state’s largest poker room and also simulcasts greyhound racing …  Even if the referendum passes in November, whether or not Jacksonville gets slots is largely up to the Florida Supreme Court, which already has a case pending on the issue of whether local referendums supersede legislative action on the expansion of gambling.

Councilman seeks to give Duval voters a say in Jax slot machines” via John Burr – How nice! The councilman would like to test the waters on expanding our personal liberties to include losing money in a new way at the bestbet poker room near Regency Square.

If the full council approves, Jacksonville voters will vote on the question during the November election.

And guess what? Voters in St. Lucie County could have the same opportunity in November if the county commission puts a slot machine question on the ballot being sought by Fort Pierce Jai-Lai & Poker.

So Duval and St. Lucie counties could join the ranks of Palm Beach and Brevard counties where voters have voiced approval of slot machines and are awaiting a decision from the Florida Legislature on their installation. Miami-Dade and Broward counties already have slots.

Wiles, the political operative extraordinaire who is working for bestbet, couches a possible Duval County referendum in the most innocent terms.

“It is simply asking the voters to suggest whether they want to have slot machines in Duval County,” Wiles told The Florida Times-Union.

And if voters approve, expect Wiles and bestbet to strongly “suggest” in the state capitol that slot machines come to Duval County.

The question will be framed by the gambling industry as one of “personal liberties” and “the will of the people.” As American as baseball and apple pie. By the way, the same rationale will be argued in the years ahead to legalize marijuana.

The bottom line here is not the right to choose, it’s the bottom line. There’s money to be made, many billions of dollars of it when you consider the potential of gambling and selling weed across Florida. Vice pays, especially so when it’s legal.

“Jacksonville, 12th most populous city, is also 12th fastest growing city” via Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-Union – The U.S. Census Bureau released new data that reveal how cities’ population estimates changed. Jacksonville added 13,069 people from 2014 to 2015 and 44,751 people from 2010 to 2015. For comparison’s sake, here’s how other Florida cities did: Orlando added 31,506 since 2010 and 7,860 since 2014. Tampa added 32,270 since 2010 and 9,054 since 2014. Miami added 39,949 since 2010 and 9,627 since 2014. In 2011, Austin surpassed Jacksonville as the 11th most populous city. Orlando is one of the fastest growing cities, as well, growing 3 percent from 2014 to 2015 and 13.2 percent since 2010. Jacksonville is Florida’s most populous city, but this is of course due to the city-county consolidation and not to increased density. Jacksonville’s position as 12th most populous city might be in danger. Several cities smaller than Jacksonville added more people, including Fort Worth, Denver, Charlotte and Seattle. The Jacksonville metropolitan area, as opposed to the city limits, according to census data released earlier this year, was the 53rd fastest growing metropolitan area in the U.S., out of 388.

Financial Times newspaper touts Jacksonville’s role as financial center” via Roger Bull of the Florida Times-Union – New York and London are getting serious competition when it comes to banking and finance, and some of that is coming from Jacksonville. That’s the conclusion of a story published in the Financial Times. “Forget the bright lights and fast pace of living in two of the world’s greatest metropolises,” the story began, “city living for a new generation of financial workers is now more Jacksonville in Florida and Warsaw in Poland than New York and London.” The story isn’t really just about Jacksonville … the only other reference to the city is this: “Other preferred options include Jacksonville in Florida, where operating costs are 23 percent lower than in New York. The city has gained more than 4,000 jobs, including Macquarie, Deutsche Bank and Ernst & Young.”

Friends of Hemming Park faces criticism from council members” via David Chapman of the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record – Hemming Park is on course to receive $250,000 for a stage in the urban venue that’s often viewed as the front door to City Hall. But, the two-day discourse council committees had to arrive at that decision this week veered past that immediate upgrade and often questioned the efforts and future of the nonprofit that’s been running the park since late 2014. Friends of Hemming Park to date received $1 million for its first 18-month operational contract that began in October 2014. It needs another $250,000 or so to make it through the rest of this fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, money the city set aside in a contingency to see how things were at this point in the year. The plan shifted slightly with the advent of the stage — the focus moved to on the city’s $250,000 going toward the stage, while a $250,000 donation for the stage’s naming rights would come from Community First Credit Union. The business’s funds would go toward the Friends’ operations instead. The switch didn’t detract council members from criticizing the Friends’ management, despite most of them agreeing the park is in better shape than before. “I just don’t get the feeling they’re trying to pinch pennies over there,” said Council member John Crescimbeni.

Lawsuit aims to stop Duval schools transgender bathroom policy” via Lindsey Kilbride of WJCT – The Duval County School Board and school superintendent are being sued for allowing transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity. Republican State Attorney candidate Wesley White filed the suit against Duval Schools on behalf of a Duval mother. White said his client Wryshona Isaac has four children — ages 8,9, 13 and 15 — and thinks people will abuse this privilege and put her children in harm’s way. “My client is concerned about the privacy interest of her kids when they’re in a male or female bathroom and from other people who are not male or female as the case may be coming in,” White said.

“Janet Adkins wants Florida AG to weigh in on transgender students’ bathroom access” via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Adkins … called the president’s new policy a “clear violation” of states’ rights under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. “It is clear that the Obama administration is once again circumventing the Congress and even its own federal rule-making process to impose new federal rules and laws on Florida’s public schools,” Adkins said in a statement … But Bondi’s office isn’t wading into the issue. Deputy Attorney General Kent J. Perez wrote in a response to Adkins … “We do not issue legal opinions on federal law.” On Friday, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice sent letters of guidance to all public schools nationwide informing them that they must treat students in ways that match their gender identities — or risk losing federal money under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in educational programs based on sex.

Duval School Board member at center of text controversy leaving board” via the First Coast News – The member who called for the termination of Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti in February says she will not be running for re-election this November … Dr. Constance Hall sent a letter to some board members stating she would not be running in November. Text messages between Dr. Hall and the school board’s internal auditor, Michelle Begley, showed Hall’s displeasure with Vitti. Last September, Hall told Begley, “I vote, fire him now!!!!!!!!!!!!!” In a separate text the same day, Hall ridicules the superintendent, calling him ” … Special Ed in action.” Vitti said the remarks caused a “hostile work environment.”

Former Jax Councilman Warren Jones will run for Duval County School Board” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – Jones, who served 28 years on the Council, will run for the Duval County School Board in Group 5 … “I finally came to the conclusion yesterday … after I found out [the incumbent] Connie Hall would not run.” Jones, one of Lenny Curry‘s appointees to the JEA board last year, is interestingly positioned to run for school board, as he has a thorough understanding of the entire community. “You have the chamber and the business community who want to see the school system improve,” especially given that St. Johns County has A-rated schools to the south of Jacksonville, Jones said.

Children’s Commission will look for new provider to run child-abuse-prevention program” via Tessa Duvall of the Florida Times-Union – The board of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission is moving forward with its plan to find a new provider for a child abuse prevention program after The Bridge of Northeast Florida continues to provide what the board considers unsatisfactory results. The Bridge was put on notice by the commission at its March board meeting for performance issues with the Healthy Families Jacksonville program, with the promise of rebidding its contract if it didn’t improve the number of families served, home visit rates and staff supervision. The Bridge’s current contract will be extended through the end of September while the commission seeks competitive bids for the $1.1 million contract for 2016-17, according to board materials.

Mike Hightower for Duval School Board? Thought about it, ruled it out” via Florida Politics – Hightower, JEA’s chief public affairs officer, was approached by some interested members of Jacksonville’s donor class for a potential school board run. He thought about it briefly, for about 14 hours, but ruled it out. Hightower’s reasoning was pragmatic: he’s happy with his role at JEA and didn’t want to muddy the waters with the rigors of a campaign.

“JEA unloads riverfront cop-house at loss” via Sebastian Kitchen of the Florida Times-Union – JEA administrators completed the sale of riverfront property that made news in 2013 when it was learned a police lieutenant was living there rent free. JEA sold the house in Arlington for $373,369, far less than the $590,000 the city-owned utility paid for it in February 2011. Add in the more than $54,000 JEA says it paid for security and maintenance and its loss on the deal totals $270,631 … A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office supervisor lived there without paying rent for more than two years beginning in May 2011, until the arrangement became public in 2013. JEA gave the officer an October 2013 move-out date and put the house on the market in late 2013. JEA’s head of security selected the lieutenant, who at the time made about $86,000 a year.

JTA honored as outstanding public transportation system” via News 4 Jax – The Jacksonville Transportation Authority was named the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) …  JTA will receive the award during APTA’s annual meeting in September in Los Angeles. The award is considered to be the most distinguished of all the honors handed out at the convention. “It is great news that our transportation system is the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award,” Mayor Lenny Curry said. “This national recognition demonstrates the innovative and high-quality services JTA commits to citizens and business practices.” There are three awards, based on the size of the transit system. JTA won in the mid-size category. JTA was judged on numerous factors, including safety, operations, maintenance and community relations.

Friends of Hemming Park are going to the mattresses” via Melissa Ross of Florida Politics – As more Jacksonville City Council members begin to question the organization’s mission and fundraising prowess, expect an all-out push from the group to try to make the case with business, media and civic players that their plans for the downtown space (which includes daily programming and a planned stage) are paying off and are worth the investment. Watch the Tuesday Council meeting for more on this.

Jacksonville University celebrates its Grande Dame” via Melissa Ross of Florida Politics – The University will be holding a party this Sunday marking the 99th- that’s right, the 99th- birthday of former JU president Frances Bartlett Kinne. Kinne, a much-loved figure, was Florida’s first female university president. She’s renowned for not only her storied academic accomplishments, but for her vibrant energy and many friendships with a slew of politicians and celebrities. In her prime, Kinne was on a first-name basis with everyone from Gerald Ford to Bob Hope.

Spotted at JAXPORT’s Cruise Terminal, where they were recognized by the Florida Chamber of Commerce: state Reps. Jay Fant, Cindy Stevenson and Lake Ray and State Sen. Aaron Bean for their pro-business voting records in the 2016 Legislative Session.

Save the date – Ambassador John D. Rood chairs a fundraising reception Wednesday, May 25, to benefit the Republican Party of Florida. Special guests include Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and RPOF chair Blaise Ingoglia. VIP reception begins 6 p.m. at The River Club, 1 Independent Dr. Suite 3500 in Jacksonville. RSVP with Ivey Rooney at [email protected] or 850-363-2882 or Gretchen Picotte at [email protected] or 407-849-1112.

UF Health North’s Tower construction topped off” via ufhealthjax.org – UF Health Jacksonville held a beam signing ceremony Wednesday to mark the installation of the final beam in the UF Health North tower expansion … board members, medical staff, administrators, and employees signed the ceremonial beam that will be used in the highest point of the tower. “The topping out ceremony celebrates the completion of a significant part of the construction of our inpatient hospital and the many people who helped and worked so hard to get us to this point,” said Russ Armistead, UF Health Jacksonville CEO.The five-story tower will tie into the existing medical office building that opened in February 2015. The center has operating suites and ancillary services that will serve as the core of the new hospital. Danis and Batson-Cook Construction is building the $85 million project in a joint venture.

MOCA Jacksonville director steps down” via Alexa Epitropoulos of the Jacksonville Business Journal – Marcelle Polednik, who was appointed director in early 2011, is leaving the position to become director of the Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisconsin. Polednik has led MOCA through a series of changes and expansions, including a recent rebranding, growth in endowment and an increase in the number of exhibitions. She also led the organization through a high-profile controversy led by former City Council President Clay Yarborough over a nude photograph that was part of one of the museum’s exhibits. Before joining MOCA in 2011, Polednik held positions at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Monterey Museum of Art.

Survey feedback will help determine HUD grant use in St. Johns County” via Sheldon Gardner of the St. Augustine Record – St. Augustine Beach residents could benefit from a nearly $800,000 grant expected to come to St. Johns County government from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development … public participation will influence how the Community Development Block Grant money is used. St. Johns County, the grant administrator, is required by HUD to have a public participation process, said Benjamin Coney, county housing and community development manager. The county also has to submit a plan for spending the money, called a Consolidated Plan. “[People] have a right to participate in the process,” Coney said.

Happening today – The Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice will meet on from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. at the Jacksonville Marriot Hotel, 4670 Salisbury Road in Jacksonville. The meeting is open to the public and will be broadcast live on the Florida Supreme Court’s Gavel to Gavel website and on The Florida Channel.

Save the date – The James Madison Institute holds its spring 2016 Jacksonville Regional Meeting Thursday, June 2, from 12 to 1 p.m. at the River Club, 1 Independent Drive #3500 in Jacksonville. Check in begins 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $10 for JMI members; $15 for nonmembers. JMI BOA Members and Leaders Fellows receive complimentary access. Further information with Alyssa Gill, Director of Events & Logistics, at [email protected] or 850-386-3131.

Another 220 Riverside restaurant sets opening date” via Alexa Epitropoulos of the Jacksonville Business Journal – The last of the announced Brooklyn restaurant trio, Brixx Wood Fired Pizza, will be opening in early June. Its neighbors, Sbraga & Company and Hobnob, opened in late 2015 and early 2016 respectively. Brixx, which is based in Charlotte, serves its namesake pizzas, as well as salads, pasta and sandwiches. It also has an extensive selection of craft beer, with 24 beers on tap, as well as 14 wines by the glass and cocktails … Brixx will have a 1,400-square-foot patio that can accommodate live music. The restaurant can seat 167 people in all. The location will be Brixx’s first location in Florida, though it has several locations in the Southeast, including Georgia.

Save the date – The Bold City Cigar Festival will be Saturday, Oct. 8, from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the JAX Chamber Plaza, 3 Independent Drive in downtown Jacksonville. Event is free. Register at eventbright.com.

Jacksonville Armada FC to face Fury FC in Ottawa Sunday” via Kartik Krishnaiyer – Jacksonville Armada FC make the trip to Ottawa to face the Fury FC in a Sunday afternoon clash. The Armada will be eliminated from contention for the NASL Spring Season with anything other than a win. Ottawa, who defeated FC Edmonton 3-2 over two legs in this week’s Amway Canadian Cup Quarterfinals is in the same boat in NASL play – win or be eliminated.

The Fury are the reigning NASL Fall Season Champions and fell just short of claiming the overall NASL crown when they lost 3-2 in the Championship Final to the New York Cosmos in November.

However, Ottawa is almost completely changed from the team last year, retaining only a few of the core components from the run to the title game. The biggest signing this offseason for Fury was Marcel De Jong, a Canadian International who finished a five-season stint at FC Augsburg in the German Bundesliga in 2015 and then moved to Sporting Kansas City of MLS. In March, he joined the Ottawa. Idan Verad an Israeli attacking player is the other new significant addition to the team.

A famous name leads the Fury – Paul Dalglish, son of legendary Liverpool player and captain Kenny Dalglish.

As for Jacksonville, this match looms as a must win. In Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Minnesota the Armada were overrun badly in the midfield early falling behind 2-0 in the first 30 minutes. Once Jacksonville had a foothold in the match, it was too late and the Armada could not break down Minnesota United’s well-organized defense.

In the match, Manager Tony Meola played what appeared to be a 4-3-3 with Matt Fondy deployed as the No. 9 and flanked on either side of the front line by Pascal Millien and Jemal Johnson. The formation has some promise but Jacksonville cannot again fall behind away from home early and expect to be able to claw back into a game. For the 4-3-3 to work, the Armada must maintain some degree of possession in midfield which is much more difficult since the sale of Richie Ryan to Miami FC last week.

Game time is 2 p.m. Sunday and the match can be viewed locally on CW17 and nationally on ESPN3.

Happy birthday to Southern Strategy Group’s Matt Brockelman.

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.


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