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Jacksonville Bold for 8.16.16 — Must-see TV

Over the next few days, televised debates will help many voters’ make up their minds in three important races of the most unsettled election season northeast Florida has seen in decades.

WJXT-TV, in collaboration with the Public Policy Institute at Jacksonville University, hosts three debates over three days.

Tuesday evening sees three candidates for the GOP nomination in the 4th Circuit State Attorney race — incumbent Angela Corey and challengers Wes White and Melissa Nelson — square off in what promises to be an entertaining part of the traveling road show put on by these three.

Corey and White have both targeted Nelson, who entered the race and managed to accumulate resources and a ground game more quickly than her two opponents.

You can expect Corey to hit Nelson hard from the start, with White’s posture nearly anyone’s guess. He could call both candidates “divas” — as he did in a recent forum. He could accuse them of “catfighting” — as he did on his Facebook page.

He could do almost anything but win; blocking Nelson seems to be his only function in the race at this point.

This debate will air online, and later on television at some indeterminate point in the future.

The State Attorney debate is an appetizer; the main courses will come Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday night is the Congressional District 4’s debate, featuring four of the seven candidates.

Former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford takes on his three highest-polling opponents: Hans Tanzler, state Rep. Lake Ray, and St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure are all along for the ride.

In this field, McClure is the outsider candidate, rising from obscurity to around 5 percent in the polls. He will not be able to vault into the lead, however, no matter what happens in this debate.

Ray has been stuck in single digits the entire campaign, he doesn’t have the resources for an ad buy. One “inside baseball” story of this campaign is why Ray, a former party chair, has not received support of those voting him in as chairman just last year.

As was the case since late June, Rutherford’s only viable competition is Tanzler. Tanzler and Rutherford have been hitting each other hard with negative ads for weeks. Though the most recent UNF poll shows Tanzler down by 16 points, there may still be a path.

Tanzler’s strategy has been to boost Rutherford’s negatives. And it seems to have worked. If Tanzler is ever to go for the kill, it needs to happen Wednesday night.

Thursday night’s debate will offer the most pathos. It could spell the end of Corrine Brown’s political career.

The Florida Times-Union laid out the Congresswoman in newsprint, delivering a knockout blow in an endorsement column saying it’s time for a change.

Al Lawson doesn’t need that much support from Jacksonville, given that he has won every poll out west thus far. The Times-Union endorsement opens a door for him. Will Lawson be able to get through and close out Brown?

Thursday night could provide the answer.

Hans Tanzler calls for open debate” – Tanzler called on Jacksonville University’s Public Policy Institute and WJXT/Channel 4 to open up their upcoming congressional debate to all candidates in the District 4 race. Currently, only the top four candidates in the UNF poll are invited to participate in the forum, which will be held Wednesday. “I firmly believe that all candidates have the right to make their case, and District 4 voters deserve the opportunity to be fully informed before casting their votes. To not allow all candidates to participate on the stage would be disingenuous to voters of District 4,” said Tanzler. “I hope all of my fellow candidates will join me in urging our debate hosts to open it up to everyone. The only poll that really matters is the one Aug. 30, and until then, let’s let the voters make up their own minds.”

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With two weeks before the primary, here are the latest campaign finance figures:

– State Attorney (GOP primary) Melissa Nelson leads Angela Corey [Incumbent] by $8,467 in cash on hand. Nelson raised $ 399,082, spent $321,661 and had $77,421 COH. Corey raised $373,440, spent $304,486 and had $68.954 COH. Wes White raised $56,182; spent $54,714; had $1,468 COH.

— State Attorney (PACs): First Coast Values leads Citizens for Justice by $86,904 in COH. First Coast Values [Nelson] raised $642,800, spent $486,282; banked $160,518. Citizens for Justice [Corey] raised $97,350; spent; $23,736; banked $73,614.

— Public Defender (GOP): Charles Cofer leads Matt Shirk [Incumbent] by $16,552 in COH. Cofer raised $177,070; spent $138,318; banked $38,752. Shirk raised $43,091; spent $20,891; banked $22,200.

— HD 11 (GOP primary): Sheri Treadwell leads Cord Byrd by $22,000 in COH. Treadwell raised $162,976; spent $115,874; banked $47,102. Byrd raised $59,030; spent $33,928; banked $25,102. Donnie Horner raised $131,975; spent $114,376; banked $17,599.

— HD 12 (GOP primary): Clay Yarborough leads Terrance Freeman by $44,278 in COH. Yarborough raised $106,247; spent $45,088; banked $61,159. Freeman raised $68,452; spent $51,571; banked $16,881. Stan Jordan raised $19,100; spent $3,140; banked $15,960. Don Redman raised $27,575; spent $20,210; banked $7,365. Mark MacLean raised $53,333; spent $49,155; banked $4,178.

— HD 13 (DEM primary): Tracie Davis leads Reggie Fullwood [Incumbent] by $4,713 in COH. Davis raised $22,461; spent $4,009; banked $18,452. Fullwood raised $17,150; spent $3,411; banked $13,739.

— HD 13 (GOP primary): Mark Griffin leads Keith Walters by $21,935 in COH. Griffin raised $29.706; spent $3,106; banked $26.600. Walters raised $7,800; spent $3,135; banked $4,665.

— HD14 (DEM primary): Leslie Jean-Bart leads Kim Daniels by $12,823 in COH. Jean-Bart raised $105,251; spent $53,848; banked $51,480. Daniels raised $79,400; spent $40,820; banked $38,580. Terry Fields raised $50,725; spent $23,062; banked $27,663.

— HD 16 (GOP primary): Jason Fischer leads Dick Kravitz by $19,640 in COH. Fischer raised $165,058; spent $72,604; banked $92,454. Kravitz raised $127,325; spent $54,511; banked $72,814.

Top talker – “Times-Union endorsement: it’s time for a change in the 5th Congressional District” via the Florida Times-Union editorial board – Democratic Party voters in the 5th Congressional District deserve to vote for someone who will represent them in a non-divisive, steady fashion … Al Lawson is clearly that candidate. The list of reasons is long and compelling … former state legislator who spent 28 years in the Florida House and Senate, holding top positions in both bodies … That suggests Lawson will develop the respect and gravitas needed to get things done on Capitol Hill — by building trust and steering clear of scandal …  Lawson has already sent blunt notice that if he’s sent to Washington, he will use his congressional clout to go after negligent public housing landlords, an issue that has particular resonance here after the outrage over conditions at Eureka Garden … To choose Lawson, Democratic voters must vote out incumbent U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, who has represented this area on Capitol Hill for more than 20 years … During her 12 terms in Congress, Brown has done some good things that have helped make a difference across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida. But too often over the years, Brown has been hampered by an abrasive sense of entitlement that suggests that she thinks the congressional district exists to serve her, rather than the other way around.

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The answer is ‘No’ – “Can Ron DeSantis be beaten in Congressional District 6? via Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Congressional incumbents are rarely beaten. And DeSantis might appear to be bulletproof, running for re-election to Florida’s 6th Congressional District. Here are six strategies that could make a difference for the challengers in the Aug. 30 primary to decide who will take on the Democratic winner in November: 1. Counter DeSantis’ money and prestige with a coalition of support built on relationships and history. 2. Surf an anti-establishment wave that sinks DeSantis. 3. Position as anything but a ‘career politician’ on the climb. 4. Transcend talking points and political correctness. 5. Get acquainted with Southwest Volusia and Lake County. 6. Tell a compelling story.

Happening Friday — Candidates for Florida’s 4th Congressional District will appear at a First Coast Tiger Bay Club luncheon, beginning 11:30 a.m. at the University Club, 1301 Riverplace Blvd. in Jacksonville.

Happening Saturday — State Sen. Jeremy Ring and state Sen. Audrey Gibson are expected to participate in the Nassau County Democratic Party’s annual “low country boil,” beginning 6:30 p.m. at the Fernandina Beach Golf Club, 2800 Bill Melton Road in Fernandina Beach.

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Florida Retail Federation PAC endorses Donnie Horner for HD 11” – “Every day, Donnie works closely with a number of Florida’s major retailers and knows firsthand how important they are to the success of our state’s economy and to Florida families,” said FRF President & CEO Randy Miller. “His goal of reducing taxes on families, growing jobs and improving Florida’s overall business-friendly environment will be a big help to retailers in his position as House Representative for District 11.”

Former and current Jax councilmen close ranks, back Clay Yarborough in HD 12” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – The endorsers: Michael CorriganAl FerraroBill GullifordKevin HydeMatt Schellenberg, and Richard Clark. Corrigan, Gulliford, and Clark are all former council presidents. However, Clark is the most significant endorsement in this case. Clark was, for quite a long period of time, the leading fundraiser in the HD 12 race. He decided ultimately not to run, but not before scoring a co-endorsement, along with Terrance Freeman, from the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. Clark left the race soon afterward, leaving Freeman with the endorsement. But some close to Clark mentioned they didn’t believe Freeman was especially honest, and thus Freeman didn’t emerge with the kind of momentum one might expect in the Chamber conservative lane. “Clay Yarborough is a commonsense conservative who will stand up to special interests and support the working family. There is not a better man to serve the people of Jacksonville than Clay Yarborough. He believes in smaller government, lower taxes and more personal freedom and has a voting record to prove it. That is why I fully endorse Clay Yarborough,” Clark wrote in a statement.



Kim Daniels, Leslie Jean-Bart rivalry drives House District 14 race” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union — Not too long after Daniels lost her re-election bid for the Jacksonville City Council last year, she decided to run for the Florida House. She appeared in public with U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, becoming part of the posse that protected and defended the congresswoman as she faced federal charges. Daniels didn’t let it stand in her way that Brown had already endorsed someone else for the state House District 14 seat back in March 2015 when Daniels was still focused on the city race. Brown never rescinded that first endorsement, causing confusion on the campaign trail as both candidates tout the support of the embattled congresswoman who is still popular in Northwest Jacksonville. “I knew I had her signed endorsement, and I also knew that she never took it back,” said Jacksonville attorney Leslie Jean-Bart, Daniels’ chief rival for the House seat … most of the attention has focused on Daniels and Jean-Bart, who was endorsed by term-limited incumbent Rep. Mia Jones. That isn’t the only thing causing controversy in the House District 14 race. Jean-Bart’s campaign manager called police Aug. 6 after volunteers got into a shouting match with Daniels and some of her supporters while canvassing in the Sherwood Forest neighborhood. The confrontation was allegedly caused by Daniels’ supporters who told residents that Jean-Bart’s team was lying about Brown’s endorsement. Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown, a Daniels supporter, faults Jean-Bart for continuing to speak of an endorsement that he believes is moot. “You wouldn’t have to send me a letter” to rescind, he said. “I want people with me that’s with me 100 percent.”

Several seek to fill void as longtime sheriffs retire in Northeast Florida” via Joe Daraskevich of the Florida Times-Union — In Clay County, the top lawman will be determined in the Aug. 30 primary election with only Republicans choosing the first new sheriff since Rick Beseler was elected in 2004. Joey Dobson in Baker County and Jeff Hardy in Putnam County are the other two sheriffs not seeking re-election this year. The three have combined for 40 years of service in their current roles. John Rutherford, the former Jacksonville sheriff, was replaced by Mike Williams last year after reaching his term limit of 12 years. Beseler is backing Craig Aldrich, and Williams has endorsed Darryl Daniels also in Clay County. James Jett and Harold Rutledge are the two others on the ballot. Voters with the most options for sheriff are in Putnam County with eight candidates vying to replace Hardy. Brent CoatesJonathan KinneyThomas Tipton and Tom Williams will battle for the Republican vote in the Aug. 30 primary, with Gator DeLoach IIICarl Perry and Ricky Wright on the Democratic ticket. Edison Edison is the lone candidate with no party affiliation. When Dobson announced his retirement in March, he said he would be leaving the world of politics and had no interest in endorsing a candidate. Two of the three men seeking his position are part of his staff. Gerald Gonzalez, no party affiliation, is director of operations at the Sheriff’s Office. He serves as chairman of the Baker County Traffic Safety Coalition and on the board of directors for the Baker Prevention Coalition. Scotty Rhoden, a Republican, is a lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Office. Rhoden’s father, Jerry Rhoden, is a former police chief in Macclenny. Gerald Ruise, a Democrat, is with the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office after spending time with the Florida Department of Transportation, and before that the Baker County Sheriff’s Office. Nassau County is one of the two sheriff races in Northeast Florida featuring an incumbent. Bill Leeper, a Republican, is sheriff and a retired Florida Highway Patrol captain. He was mayor of Fernandina Beach for two terms and served as a city commissioner. Leeper will square off against Carol Batchelor, who has no party affiliation. The other incumbent seeking re-election is in St. Johns County where Republican David Shoar is hoping for a fourth term. There is one Republican running against Shoar and two write-in candidates who will be part of the general election in November. Debra Maynard, a Republican, started a second career in law enforcement when she was hired by the Sheriff’s Office in 2007. Linda Doran and Andrew Tallman are the write-in candidates.

Wes White hires Denise Hunt for stretch run” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Hunt, an outspoken activist for many causes, has been involved most recently in public demonstrations at the federal courthouse in Jacksonville, arguing that Congresswoman Corrine Brown has become the subject of a “witch hunt.” Now, Hunt is involved in a different capacity in White’s campaign. Hunt was paid $700 August 1, joining a diverse cast of characters working for White that includes anti-LGBT activist Raymond Johnson and a corrections officer from Nassau County fired for on-camera police brutality against an inmate … Hunt’s Facebook page is one of the more interesting in Jacksonville, with heterodox musings on all manner of political operators and operations. Hunt had commentary on a forum at Queens Harbor … which she attended in seeming support of White. “I swear some of you ‘chicken wing, collar [sic] green eating’ negros acting like warriors for Justice and for Obama by day, and then becoming Plantation negros at night out at Queens Harbor … Nothing like ‘fence straddling’ niccas and their fakery..‪#‎ISeeYourFakery ‪#‎BeReal ‪#‎TrumpLovingNegros,” Hunt wrote.

Special prosecutor clears State Attorney candidate of allegations of wrongdoing by opponent” via Larry Hannan of the Florida Times-Union – Wesley White, who is running for state attorney against [MelissaNelson and incumbent Angela Corey, said Nelson and her campaign team threatened him if he didn’t get out of the race. White complained to Corey and asked her to investigate the matter, but Corey recused herself and asked Gov. Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the issue. Scott appointed State Attorney William Cervone of the Gainesville-based 8th Judicial Circuit … Cervone wrote a letter to White telling him that Nelson and her team did nothing illegal. White says Nelson and some of her supporters tried to intimidate him during an April meeting to drop out and that if he didn’t, it would necessitate “the publication of knowingly false information regarding my personal and professional character,” according to his letter to Corey. But Cervone rejected that allegation. “Despite whatever was said, you remain a candidate and there has been no impact from that meeting on the ability of anyone to vote as they choose,” Cervone said. Cervone also said a private meeting discussing political strengths and weaknesses or strategies is not uncommon, or in his view illegal. He also pointed out that in some of the correspondence between White and Nelson, White was encouraging Nelson not to enter the race.

Is Angela Corey the cruelest prosecutor in America?” via Jessica Pishko of The Nation – In nearly every relevant category, Duval County (by far the largest in the Fourth Circuit) embodies the outdated ideas that have fueled mass incarceration in this country-theories that everyone from the Obama administration to the Koch brothers have declared useless. In 2010, Duval had the highest incarceration rate in Florida … Despite this fact, Corey has opposed efforts to change the sentencing structure for nonviolent offenses to alleviate overcrowding at local jails. … Duval is one of the few counties in America in which the number of death sentences hasn’t decreased … Corey‘s top homicide prosecutor, Bernie de la Rionda, is known for seeking the death sentence even when circumstances seem to weigh against it … During her first year in office, Corey doubled the number of felony cases in which minors were tried as adults.

Protestors rally against Corey at Jacksonville’s Hemming Park” via Ryan Benk of WJCT – The Jacksonville Progressive Coalition led a protest … against the policies of Republican Corey. Some held signs calling for Corey’s resignation because of her affinity for the death penalty and adult sentencing of juveniles. Biko Misabiko raised a Pan-African flag. Misabiko said he’s outraged by recent police killings of unarmed black men. It hit particularly close to home in May when his friend, Vernell Bing Jr., was shot and killed after a high-speed car chase with police. The FBI is reviewing the case. Nearby, Gary Snow, wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap unfurled three flags of his own: a Donald Trump campaign flag, an American flag, and a blue and black flag in support of police. A conflict broke out when a protester approached him. Snow said he’s a recent Jacksonville transplant from Chicago. He said the protesters should be more focused on shootings not involving police. “Eighty percent of people killed in Chicago are African-American. Seventy percent of the homicides go unsolved because the community doesn’t want to cooperate with the police officers,” he said.

Corey donor moderates candidate forum, doesn’t disclose Corey donation” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – A recent forum for 4th Circuit State Attorney in Jacksonville’s tony Queens Harbor neighborhood was well-attended, with coverage on two television stations and in the Florida Times-Union. Omitted from any of the write-ups, however: the fact that the forum moderator, Valarie Linnen, gave the campaign of incumbent State Attorney Corey $500 June 9. Linnen, despite having donated to one of the candidates, judiciously withheld her endorsement until after she moderated the forum. No surprise where that endorsement went. “After personally speaking with each of the three candidates,” Linnen wrote on Facebook, “I support Angela Corey for State Attorney.” Perhaps her support lapsed between June 10 and the forum date? When asked by a concerned citizen if she reached the decision before or after she moderated the town hall event with her endorsed candidate and that candidate’s opponents, Linnen wrote: “When I decided is my business.” For those thinking the chicanery in this campaign ended when the primary was closed by Corey’s campaign manager, think again.

New PAC ad funded by former supporters tells Matt Shirk ‘the party’s over’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – A new ad from the Northeast Florida Committee for Principled Government, an ECO, tells Public Defender Shirk that two terms are enough and “the party’s over.” John Daigle, who runs the ECO and the campaign of Shirk’s GOP primary opponent, Charles Cofer, notes “this campaign was funded in large part by legal community leaders from both parties who were big Matt Shirk supporters in his previous races. Those donors include John Kalil and Howard Coker, among others. This is not a Charlie Cofer campaign initiative.” The 30-second spot … maligns Shirk for an “entitlement mentality” that means he’s not fit for office. Among the charges: Shirk had to pay a former client who sued over work not done; Shirk was judged by a grand jury as having indulged in “reckless behavior” in office, including asking female employees to shower with him; and Shirk’s resignation was recommended by that same grand jury.

shirkMarriages an issue in races for county clerk” via Tessa Duvall of the Florida Times-Union – When same-sex marriage became legal in Florida, some clerks, including those in Duval, Baker and Clay counties, announced they would no longer offer courthouse weddings through their offices. National news organizations and comedy programs alike picked up on the story. Ronnie Fussell, clerk of courts in Duval County, said there has been a lot of misinformation about his office’s decision to stop offering weddings. He said people can still get married in the courthouse, the clerk’s office simply plays no role. Judges, pastors, even notaries can officiate ceremonies, he said. “There was plenty of capacity for people to get that service done,” he said. Fussell’s opponents have capitalized on his decision, with Republican and Democratic challengers alike both pledging to restore ceremonies offered by the clerk’s office if elected. Mike Riley, Republican … worked in the Duval County Clerk of Courts office for 21 years, during which he oversaw departments including Jury Service, Recording and Public Records. Riley said he believes the big issue in the Duval race is Fussell’s decision not to offer wedding ceremonies. Eliminating the ceremonies has been especially detrimental to military families, he said. Paula Bartlett, Democrat … said she is running to correct “mismanagement” of the clerk’s office and improve customer service. As an attorney, Bartlett said, she understands the importance of the clerk’s office in the legal process.

Are police turning a blind eye to crime in Clay County to help Craig Aldrich’s campaign for sheriff?” via Nikki Sanders of Folio Weekly — Many longtime residents of Clay County consider Rick Beseler the best sheriff the county has had for decades. Some wonder, however, if the race to become the next sheriff will taint Beseler’s record, specifically his endorsement and support of controversial sheriff candidate Aldrich. Some within the department are alleging that the Clay County Sheriff’s Office has essentially turned a blind eye to the illegal methamphetamine trafficking and growing gang activity to make the county appear safer than it actually is, in order to help Aldrich’s campaign. When Beseler became sheriff in 2004 … Beseler promised to put “safeguards in place to avoid similar problems” with allegations of corruption, embezzlement and other nefarious activities within the office, and said that “those safeguards were put in place to stop what [former Sheriff Scott Lancaster] was doing, it was all for him. He sacrificed the Sheriff’s Office’s integrity” … numerous individuals from within CCSO are saying that certain members of the command staff are making questionable decisions and intimidating those who go against them … several officers and CCSO employees told Folio Weekly Magazine that when Beseler’s wife became ill approximately four years ago, he began trusting then-Undersheriff Aldrich with more and more responsibility. These sources say that Aldrich had neither the law enforcement expertise nor the easygoing temperament that were among Beseler’s strengths and that department morale has plummeted under Aldrich, who retired June 30.

Growth and development at forefront of St. Johns County Commission Races” via Jake Martin of the St. Augustine Record — With seemingly every conversation in St. Johns County taking place against a backdrop of growth and development, questions of how to meet the subsequent demands, and who’s responsible for creating those demands, have been at the center of debate in each of the three county commission races this election season. Commissioner Jimmy Johns of District 1, representing much of the fast-growing northwest corner of the county, is facing off against fellow Republican Al Abbatiello in a universal primary contest that will be open to all registered county voters. This race will be decided Aug. 30 in the primary election. Johns, the incumbent, was appointed in 2014 by Gov. Scott to take over midterm for former Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson … He is seeking election to his first full term. Abbatiello is hoping his experience at the helm of the William Bartram Scenic & Historic Highway Management Group and involvement in several other groups challenging encroaching development will put him ahead at the polls. Both candidates expressed concerns for the environment and the possible effects of sustained growth on quality of life in an editorial board interview with The Record earlier this week. The eleventh-hour entry of write-in candidates in the District 3 and District 5 races has closed those two primaries off to non-Republican voters. The name of whoever wins each of the closed primaries Aug. 30 will appear on the ballot in the November election against a blank space, assuming the write-ins don’t drop out of the race following the primaries. Vying for Commissioner Bill McClure’s District 3 seat are former St. Johns County assistant administrator Jerry Cameron and St. Augustine businessman Paul Waldron. In an editorial board interview with The Record last week, both candidates said growth was the elephant in the room but outlined different visions for dealing with the challenges presented by sustained development.

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Lenny Curry confronts pension tax critics at Rotary meeting” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – The agenda at the Jacksonville Rotary Club included two opponents of Jacksonville’s County Referendum 1 … Not on the agenda, but there to offer counterargument: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry … John Winkler of the Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County, took issue with the language of the ballot referendum, calling it “virtually incomprehensible” compared to the language required by statute in insurance policies. Winkler objects to that, and also takes issue with the Jacksonville City Council approving the ballot measure before the state statute went into effect July 1. He believes that for the council to have been consistent with the statute, it would have had to approve the measure for the November ballot … Tom Majdanics … best known for his work with the local KIPP Charter School … argued for an aggressive sort of pension reform that seemed divorced from political reality, talking about how the “new tax” protects the “status quo” of “solid gold” pensions that see an average retired first responder collecting $4 million and the total liability pushed up to $652 million per annum by FY 2037. “The ideas you saw are purely academic,” Curry said, noting the unsustainability of the unfunded pension liability. Curry also noted that moves toward reform were made, both in the Peyton administration and before he came into office last summer, before reminding Madjanics that city government is “not like the private sector.” New terms can’t be imposed on public sector unions, Curry said; “you end up with an impasse.”

Fire union spends $50K on ‘Yes for Jacksonville’” via Florida Politics – The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters had the biggest donation of any group to “Yes for Jacksonville,” the political committee marketing the referendum to authorize a half-cent sales tax extension to address the $2.8 billion unfunded pension liability, in the most recent reporting period. Of the $185,000 received by the committee between July 30 and Aug. 5, the fire union had the only $50,000 donation, though a number of other interested parties gave $25,000. EverBank Financial Company, Best Bet and J.B. Coxwell Contracting — deeply politically connected entities in banking, gambling, and contracting on public works projects — all were in the $25,000 club.

Ethics complaint filed against Jacksonville Mayor’s Chief of Staff” via Ryan Benk of WJCT – The complaint stems from a city audit finding she improperly diverted $317,000 from four Northside redevelopment projects to a consulting group, where she later got a job. According to a city audit, Kerri Stewart was the director of the city’s Housing and Neighborhoods Division in 2007, when she negotiated and approved a no-bid contract awarding the money to consulting firm, Infinity Global Solutions. Stewart then worked for IGS in 2011 before returning to City Hall as Curry’s Chief of Staff. Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown ordered the city audit after projects in his district went unfinished. Now, Southern Christian Leadership Conference Board Chairman Juan Gray is asking the city Ethics Commission to review the case. “If ever there was a case of economic injustice, this is it,” he said.

Proposed budget would take $4.5M from downtown funds” via Jason Rantala of WTLV – The city’s Finance Committee discovered the fact during their annual budget review. As it stands, Mayor Lenny Curry‘s proposed budget would take $4.6 million from a downtown redevelopment fund. Council member Bill Gulliford says under state law, leftover money from redevelopment funds can be spent, however, the downtown fund has limitations in that it can only be spent downtown. Gulliford says based on that fact, the money must stay downtown. The city needs to find another source to replace that money, which Gulliford says he’s certain will happen, since he predicts the city will have more money than currently anticipated. Budget discussions wrap by the end of August.

Over district councilman’s objections, Jax surplus property bill moves through committee” via Florida Politics – A spirited discussion of the dispensation of surplus property in District 10 and Jacksonville’s lingering affordable housing issues highlighted Jacksonville’s NCIS committee … The Real Estate Division requested authorization to declare 32 condo lots on Lane Avenue South in Common Elements, Brookewood A Condominium, as surplus tax reverted parcels after an investigation which determined the City has no need for property. The authorization would allow for the sale of all parcels as one collective unit through a RFP process. Each parcel is zoned RMD-D and assessed at $8,000.00. The bill passed 4 to 2, with Councilman Reggie Brown (who represents the district) and Councilwoman Joyce Morgan as the no votes … Brown thought that controversy-plagued Wealth Watchers had this deal locked up, despite being investigated for a conflict of interest. There had been miscommunication between Brown and the Lenny Curry administration for weeks on this, with Brown wanting a copy of the “mystery letter” documenting the investigation of “Wealth Watchers,” of which Brown has yet to secure documentation of its existence, despite news accounts describing it.

Happening Saturday — State Sen. Aaron Bean will participate in a Farm Share event to distribute free food to needy people beginning 9 a.m. at the Spirit of Life Lutheran Church, 2636 New Berlin Road, in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville’s Downtown Vision Inc. reports commercial occupancy rates increase, residential units up” via Drew Dixon of the Florida Times-Union — The report … shows occupancy rates of commercial properties in downtown climbed to 81.4 percent in the past year and a half. The report says that’s the highest level since 2007. The lowest commercial occupancy rate was 75.1 percent in 2010. Commercial space in downtown is also becoming more valuable … The average lease rate was $19.15 per square foot in 2015, the highest rate since 2007 when the rate was $19.71 per square foot, according to the DVI. The report looked at residential factors in the downtown area of Jacksonville and stated the area saw the first addition of “high-end” apartments since 2008. In 2015 … there were 604 new apartment units added to downtown in the Brooklyn area, which is on Riverside Avenue where the Riverside 220 apartments among others were constructed and opened. That brings the total of apartment units in downtown to 4,126. While residential and commercial offerings are on the increase, so too, was the workforce … About 59,400 people are now employed in the downtown area. That was an increase of about 1,600 jobs in the downtown area. Those downtown workers are relatively young as well … 24.3 percent of downtown workers are between ages of 25 and 34. Another 25.9 percent are 35 to 44 and the largest single demographic of downtown workers — 28.2 percent — are between the ages of 45 to 54. Working downtown also pays well. The DVI report states 63 percent of the people who work downtown have a household annual income of $80,000 or more. The report also stated there were 14 “major projects” with a value of $221 million completed in downtown and another 25 “active” projects in the works totaling $471 million in value.

Jacksonville-based company selected to plan massive community in Nassau” via Derek Gilliam of the Jacksonville Business Journal — Jacksonville-based WG Pitts Co. will design a 1,641-acre master planned community in Nassau County. The massive development calls for 3,000 homes. The land is just west of Interstate 95 in Yulee along State Road A1A. In addition to homes, the project will have about 750,000 square feet of commercial, office and light industrial space. There’s also plans for a public park, waterfront access and a site for an elementary school. John Powers, formerly of Powers & Merritt, is leading WG Pitt’s land planning team.

Jacksonville rehab facility featured in HHS blog post” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida — A Jacksonville rehabilitation hospital and one of its patients are featured in a Department of Health and Human Services blog post touting Obamacare. Will Floyd‘s first-person account of his rehabilitation and recovery at the Brooks Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospital is featured in the post, “Determination and Coordinated Care Gave Me My Life Back” … I don’t know much about Delivery System Reform or bundled payments, but I do know that I liked my care,” he wrote. On June 28, Brooks hosted Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Burwell, who held a roundtable discussion with 13 people for nearly an hour. The hospital voluntarily participated in the Medicare bundle reimbursement system in 2013 for patients needing hip and joint replacements, as well as patients with congestive heart failure and spinal patients. Jacksonville was one of several cities Burwell visited as she touted some of the payment reforms under the Affordable Care Act.

CFX receives high marks from the Florida Transportation Commission” — The Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) received high marks from the Florida Transportation Commission (FTC) which reported that CFX met or exceeded 15 of the 16 performance measures listed in their Fiscal Year 2015 Transportation Authority Monitoring and Oversight Report … results indicate that CFX is one of the top performing transportation agencies in the state of Florida. “This agency’s exceptional performance noted by the FTC is like getting an ‘A’ on a report card,” said Lake County Commissioner and CFX Chairman Welton Cadwell in reference to this most recent Oversight Report. “The board is extremely proud of our team for their commitment to excellence in serving residents and visitors here in our area.” The FTC was created in 1987 to serve as a citizen’s oversight board for the Florida Department of Transportation. The Commission’s oversight was expanded in 2007 to include Florida’s expressway and regional transportation authorities.

Local longshoremen’s union awards more than $26,000 in scholarships to area students” – Local 1408 of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) has awarded $26,800 in scholarships to 35 area high school seniors and college students, the largest group of recipients to date … Applicants submitted essays discussing how current events will impact Jacksonville’s overall economy, JAXPORT’s growth and the funding necessary to deepen the St. Johns River. Scholarship recipient Riley Despres is the daughter of longshoreman Jeff Despres, who has served the industry for 27 years. Her essay focused on the potential of a deeper river to secure current jobs and create new opportunities. “Deepening the St. Johns will help even more people like my dad have quality jobs and support their families.” Established in 1995, the ILA scholarship program has awarded more than 800 scholarships totaling nearly half a million dollars. Originally developed to help longshoremen’s children pursue higher education, the program has since evolved to include other community students as the organization focuses on encouraging area youth. Recipient Rebecca Roberts says she plans to use the funds to support her childhood dream of studying math education at the University of North Florida. “This scholarship will assist with a number of high costs outside of tuition, such as books and meals, and ultimately help me join the long-line of educators in my family.”

Jax entrepreneur hopes to crack fantasy football market with college angle” via Drew Dixon of the Florida Times-Union – … though the odds of success are not overwhelming. The website pigskinfantasyu.com is geared for fantasy fans who want to focus on Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) teams only in the NCAA. The new angle pigskinfatnasyu.com is betting on is a change from fantasy fans picking individual players from different teams to form their rosters against other fantasy gamers. Instead, the new format prompts gamers to pick entire college teams. Basically, fantasy gamers form a team of teams to compete against other gamers. Brendan Cumiskey of Jacksonville is the founder of pigskinfantasyu.com and said he’s been testing the site for most of the past three years. The site has about 10,000 subscribers already and Cumiskey hopes to increase that to about 100,000 in the next five years or so. With much of fantasy football activity focused on the NFL game, Cumiskey said he saw a market opening for college fantasy football. “The opening for us was that CBS Sports was really the only player in college fantasy football. But they tried to apply the NFL model to college which just does not work. There are 128 teams [in college] and college players change all the time,” Cumiskey said.

First bourbon distilled and barreled in Florida since prohibition” via Janny Rodriguez of WTLV – Barrels at the St. Augustine Distillery are filled with the first ever bourbon, distilled and barreled, in the state of Florida. Philip McDaniel, President and co-founder of the St. Augustine Distillery says it’s the first bourbon released in Florida to their knowledge since prohibition, which ended in 1933. McDaniel said he’s excited to be bringing bourbon making not only to the sunshine state but to the First Coast. McDaniel said after the mixture goes through a fermentation process for a few days, it goes into stills and finally into barrels for at least 18 months before its ready to drink. “You can see that color the rich dark color from the Florida heat…It’s got caramel, a little cinnamon, you can smell the oak” Sept. 9 is the official release date for the bourbon at the St. Augustine distillery.

Bolles graduate Joseph Schooling’s historic win over Michael Phelps brings huge payday from Singapore” via the Florida Times-Union — The achievement — Singapore’s first medal in Rio — qualified Schooling for an award of about $740,000 from the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) that he will be able to keep without forfeiting his remaining college swimming eligibility … NCAA’s Division I schools adopted a rule that allowed athletes to accept money under the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Operation Gold program, which provides a limited amount of cash based on athletes’ performances at the Olympics or, in non-Olympic years, a world championships or similar competition. But, according to the rationale statement that accompanied a 2015 rules change: “Unlike other legislation related to benefits from the USOC or national governing body, the exception for the Operation Gold program does not apply to international student-athletes.’’ The proposal … wound its way through the NCAA’s multistep legislative process and was approved by the Division I board of directors without any schools subsequently calling for its repeal, according to USA Today. It became effective Aug. 1, 2015. Schooling’s performance triggered a payout from what is called the Multi Million Dollar Award Program — so named because athletes in an individual Olympic event can win up to $1 million (Singapore) for a gold medal and a team can win up to $2 million. The money comes primarily from a Singapore National Olympic Council sponsorship deal with Tote Board, a wagering company. Under the incentive program’s rules, Schooling will have to give 20 percent of his award money to the Singapore Swimming Association.

Bucs, Jags confident in strength for upcoming face-off” via Gary Shelton – A year ago, it was one of the NFL’s best under-the-radar football games.

So how can you blame the Tampa Bay Bucs and Jacksonville Jags for making a week out of it?

The Bucs and Jags not only play Saturday night, they will have joint practices Wednesday and Thursday against each other. One of the practices will be in full pads, the other in shoulder pads and helmets.

It is doubtful the teams can have any more drama than last year, when the Bucs beat Jacksonville 38-31. In that game, Blake Bortles threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns, and 14 of his completions went to Allen Hurd and Allen Robinson. The Bucs’ Jameis Winston threw for 209, and Doug Martin rushed for 123. Bortles had a quarterback rating of 125.4, and Winston had one of 122.5.

Howard Jones had two sacks for the Bucs.

This year, both teams feel better about their squads. The Bucs have strengthened their pass rush and secondary play. The Jags are better across the defensive front and at linebacker.

“Coach [Gus] Bradley and I have talked a lot about (the practice ground rules),” said Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations, and the main thing is that we’re on the same page, that both teams are on the same page and that the coaching staffs from both teams know what the ground rules are and enforce the ground rules, that’s the main thing. It really will be practice similar to [what] you’re used to seeing out here, it’ll just be two practices going on at the same time – our offense against their defense on one field and flipped over on the other field. So similar drills, similar number of reps, and really like we do on a regular week. You have the things you work on, on a Wednesday and the things you work on, on a Thursday, in season.”

In particular, the practices will be interesting with Jags’ receivers Robinson and Hurd going against new Bucs’ corners Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves, with second-year defensive end Dante Fowler going against second-year tackle Donovan Smith and with Mike Evans testing Jalen Ramsey.

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Jags, Bucs sport numerous high profile ex-gators, ‘Noles” via Bob Sparks – While both teams are looking for their first victory, the coaches are trying to use these games to look at those who can help them once the season begins. Tampa Bay somehow got 84 players onto the field in Philadelphia during Thursday’s 17-9 loss to the Eagles. The Jaguars did not send nearly as many players into action, but there was a story behind one who did play. Former Gator Dante Fowler, Jr. saw his first action in more than 18 months at defensive end. Fowler, the third pick overall in the 2015 draft, missed all of last season due to a severe knee injury. Gator fans hope to see the Jags’ top draft pick from 2016. Vernon Hargreaves III was on the field for 30 snaps in Tampa Bay’s preseason opening 17-9 loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia Saturday. Hargreaves was held out of Saturday’s practice with an injury not believed to be serious. Jacksonville and Florida State fans are hoping this year’s top draft pick, former Seminole cornerback Jalen Ramsey, finally makes his pro debut. The other Seminole to watch is kicker Roberto Aguayo. During his college career he made all 198 of his extra point tries, but missed his first attempt as a pro last Thursday. Sure, there are several other players to watch, including Bucs’ second-year quarterback Jameis Winston. If training camp is about evaluating rookies, this game will provide plenty of opportunities for coaches and fans.

Written By

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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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

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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