Jacksonville Bold for 09.20.16 — HRO and small-town mentality

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A recurrent frustration of the Northeast Florida political class is how the media doesn’t “get” politics.

It’s a frustration often heard at our NE Florida Bureau, especially as it relates to one issue: the expansion of the Human Rights Ordinance to include the LGBT community.

Proponents of expansion will tell anyone who listens that 600 businesses and 150 “faith leaders” are supporting a fully-inclusive HRO. Also, advocates for expansion point to polling — at least from the University of North Florida — that indicates majority support (even if GOP backing for the measure has trailed off since the bill was panned in its introduction earlier this year as a “bathroom bill”).

Consultants, meanwhile, paint a different picture.

And by consultants, we mean those experts at invoicing candidates on the right of the spectrum.

They will say that, to their base, HRO expansion is a big loser; the more likely a GOP supporter is to vote, the more likely it will be to oppose so-called “special rights” for people living “alternative lifestyles.”

It’s not as if those consultants particularly care themselves: they are marketing professionals, and their viability depends on selling a product — that product being a candidate, of course.

There’s no point, they believe, in getting out in front of the base, especially when that offers little in the way of payoff.

And that kind of thinking brings Jacksonville to the position it holds on the HRO issue.

For the third time in under five years, the bill is set to be reintroduced. And all eyes are turning to Mayor Lenny Curry for guidance, something that isn’t coming.

Curry asserts that his administration held community conversations … and at the end, he protected LGBT city employees and vendors from discrimination.

Meanwhile, no further action would be “prudent,” said the mayor months back … a position he hasn’t “evolved” from since.

Curry may believe the matter is settled. But some of his political allies from the push for the pension tax referendum — Jimmy Midyette of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality and Tommy Hazouri, the Democrat who took on party leadership, serving as finance chair on the committee selling the pension tax — believe otherwise.

Hazouri claims the mayor promised there would be “no meddling” with a reintroduced HRO. The word “meddling,” however, covers a lot of ground. And therein lies the problem.

Jacksonville is making a bid for NCAA and ACC tourney games being moved out of North Carolina because of the state’s HB 2 bill — a textbook anti-LGBT measure — which says (among other things) that individuals must use the bathrooms corresponding with the gender of their birth.

Those who were born intersex will tell you those certificates can be a flat-out lie. No worries, though; the legislature said it, the governor signed it, and that settles it.

There is no statewide equivalent to HB 2 in Florida, and there is no similar city ordinance.

What there is … is nothing that protects the town’s LGBT visitors.

What if two athletes kissed each other, getting thrown out of a restaurant during a tourney weekend?

They’d have no recourse because being LGBT in Jacksonville means the law doesn’t protect you from discrimination.

Curry wants to keep Jacksonville’s fight for equal rights out of the news. But reporters cover current events.

And in every city, in every state, equal rights have become an imperative for Americans.

Now, Curry could stall a while longer — he doesn’t do it on most other issues, of course, where he likes to think of himself bold.

But the reality is that there is a massive gap between the expectations of the religious right in places like Jacksonville, and attitudes in the world of multinational corporations, which demand equal rights.

Jacksonville wants to be a major player on the global stage? Fine. Time to bite the bullet.

Time to get our laws in order with Tampa, Orlando and Miami — not Lake City, Live Oak and MacClenny.

If the city is serious about wanting to land NCAA events, it needs to get serious about expanding the Human Rights Ordinance” via Ron Littlepage of the Florida Times-Union – The NCAA pulls sporting events out of North Carolina because of that state’s bathroom law that forces transgender people to use public rest rooms that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificates. Jacksonville officials immediately raise their hands and tell the NCAA to come on down to Jacksonville. That’s the part that’s a joke. While Jacksonville doesn’t have a similar bathroom law, the NCAA is surely aware — after all, there was plenty of coverage in the national media, including The New York Times — that transgenders and bathrooms were key reasons for the defeat of two efforts to expand the city’s Human Rights Ordinance to include protections for the LGBT community. The NCAA made the move from North Carolina because it wants all fans and participants in its sporting events to be protected from discrimination. They won’t find that in Jacksonville. And they know it. If the NCAA is going to move events to Florida, they will likely go to a city like Orlando, which has the facilities to stage them, plenty of hotel rooms and a strong law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Now here’s the sad part. Too many Jacksonville officials have their heads stuck in the sand and think that everything is going swimmingly well for the LGBT community here. No matter how many times Curry says that the city’s HRO doesn’t need to be expanded because Jacksonville is an “inclusive” city, that doesn’t make it true.

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Jacksonville area added more than 24,000 jobs over the year” – The area’s unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in August, a decline of 0.8 percentage point in the last year. Florida businesses created 22,600 private-sector jobs across the state during August 2016, bringing the total number of jobs created since December 2010 to 1,191,900 jobs … industries with the most job growth in the Jacksonville area over the year were education and health services with 5,100 new jobs; leisure and hospitality with 4,800 new jobs; and construction with 4,300 new jobs. The Jacksonville area remains among the top five metro areas in job demand, with 19,843 openings, including 5,592 job openings in high-skill, high-wage STEM occupations. Florida’s statewide unemployment rate remained low at 4.7 percent, the lowest rate since November 2007.

Lawsuit aims to prompt city inspectors to keep close eye on HUD properties, protect tenants” via Christopher Hong and Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-Union – A group of public housing residents are suing a city official for not enforcing building-quality standards at federally subsidized apartments, saying the policy has unfairly left low-income tenants to languish in poor living conditions that are illegal under city law. Landlords are required by the city building code to keep rental properties in decent condition, but the city typically doesn’t inspect or enforce those requirements at federally subsidized programs, according to the lawsuit. Instead, the city says it’s the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the subsidized housing program, to ensure residents receive quality housing in subsidized apartments, according to the lawsuit. Jim Kowalski, executive director of the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, which is representing the residents, said the city policy doesn’t make sense and it creates a disparity between who can and cannot receive city services. “If you rent a house in Mandarin, you can call 630-City. If you rent a Section 8 house, you can’t,” said Kowalski, referring to the city’s hotline to report potential building code violations. “If you call 630-City and ask for assistance on enforcing the building code, it really shouldn’t matter where you live.” The five residents filing the lawsuit reported complaints earlier this year with the city about poor living conditions, like roach infestation, broken windows and collapsing floors, at Oakwood Villas, Washington Heights, Hogan Creek Towers and Twin Towers. In their lawsuit against the city’s code compliance chief Bryan Mosier, the residents argue the city has a legal responsibility to enforce those requirements and are demanding they begin doing so at all apartments — especially since HUD has demonstrated an inability to enforce its own rules. Last year’s situation at Eureka Garden is a “glaring” example, the attorneys say.

Jax poised to re-dedicate Dames Point Park to honor El Faro crew via Florida Politics –In the Jacksonville City Council Neighborhoods, Community Investments and Services Committee … a measure was approved to rename a local park as a memorial to the El Faro victims. The renaming of the Dames Point Park was described by bill sponsor Al Ferraro as “so much more than the renaming of a park.” Tote Maritime will refurbish the park and add a memorial, reviving what Ferraro described as a “blighted area.” There will be a re-dedication ceremony Oct. 1.

Happening tomorrow – Jacksonville City Council and Duval County School Board to meet in City Hall Wednesday at noon The meeting will discuss issues impacting growth, funding, quality of life and work within the City.

The Duval School Board needs a culture change” via the Florida Times-Union editorial board – For two hours recently, the Duval County School Board discussed the evaluation of Superintendent Nikolai Vitti in a tense atmosphere. Yet the most important indicators are on the upswing: The increasing graduation rate, the outstanding performance in the gold standard of tests by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, strong performance by African-American students in comparison with other urban school districts in Florida. Instead, there clearly are personal issues involving Vitti and some, perhaps a majority, of board members. Worse, there is distrust among the board members themselves. Once new members arrive in November, the board should take this opportunity to make major changes in its climate. Here is a to-do list for the board: Communicate better: Vitti needs to work with individual board members to communicate in ways that work for each of them. Use skilled mediation: While the board members need to speak frankly with each other, a breakthrough session needs to be led by an experienced person who can keep the tone civil. Even if previous methods did not work, the board should not give up. Restructure board meetings: Previous boards were educated about the proper role of setting policy by the Broad Institute. This board could use something similar. Cutting back on routine meetings is a good start; the board can’t help but get involved in administration during six-hour workshops. Take on big policy issues: Rather than acting like super administrators, the board ought to be taking on big policy projects like the achievement gap and restructuring underenrolled schools. A JCCI-style study of the achievement gap is justified by the difficulty of the issue and the need to involve the larger community. Current discussions about a strategic plan ought to be expanded to make sure the board finds the right balance between aggressive goals and realistic ones.

Are Nikolai Vitti’s days numbered as Duval County School superintendent? via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – The Duval County School Board has a special meeting slated for Friday morning; the topic, broadly, is “governance and administration.” What does that mean? School Board member Scott Shine believes this could mean the end of the tenure of Superintendent Vitti. The board member who called the meeting, Ashley Smith-Juarez, has been a critic of Vitti’s communication and administrative style. And Shine, a Vitti supporter, took issue with the special meeting in a blog post (“Action to terminate Superintendent Vitti”) … “It has come to my attention that DCSB Chairman Ashley Smith-Juarez has scheduled a noticed meeting Friday, Sept. 23, of 2016 for the purpose of taking a vote to terminate Dr. Vitti’s contract with the school district,” Shine wrote. This vote would seemingly, asserts Shine, contradict the board’s performance evaluation saying that Vitti was an “effective” superintendent; with this in mind, “calling this meeting is without any merit and is unwarranted. I support Dr. Vitti’s continued employment with the district and will vote against termination of his contract.” Shine asserts Smith-Juarez has been acting “unilaterally” regarding board matters, “using coercive tactics” to compel Vitti to resign.

Duval schools superintendent resists school recess push” via the Associated Press – Parents of school children across the state have been pushing school districts and legislators to set aside 20 minutes each day for “free play recess” in elementary schools. The Florida House passed a recess bill earlier this year but it was never considered by the state Senate. But … Vitti won’t support an across-the-board directive telling teachers how and when they take their children out for recess. Vitti distributed an email to elementary school teachers and principals encouraging each school to make time for physical education classes as well as more unstructured play time. But parents told the newspaper that Vitti’s efforts aren’t enough.

’The boys’ making name for themselves in Northeast Florida” via Marilyn Young of the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record –The boys. That’s what Tim Baker and Brian Hughes said they were called in their early days as political consultants for Lenny Curry’s mayoral campaign. Hughes said the inference behind the nickname was he and Baker were in town to help get the first-time candidate elected, then would shift their focus back to Tallahassee. Then, Hughes said, “The old guard Jacksonville people will be back where they need to be.” But that was not the case. Nor, was it ever intended to be, they said. “From the start of that race to today, the two of us and Lenny have become this sort of political entity,” Hughes said. Their efforts in helping Curry defeat Mayor Alvin Brown last year signaled a changing of the guard for high-profile political consultants in the area. Baker’s meticulous polling and Hughes’ disciplined communications were in high demand for Northeast Florida candidates in last month’s primary. The boys won at every level. In Congress with John Rutherford. Countywide with Curry’s pension reform plan. In the Legislature with Jason Fischer. And in the 4th Judicial Circuit with Melissa Nelson. Baker and Hughes ended the primary with nearly a clean sweep. They also ended the night with a firm grasp on politics in Northeast Florida and how to win here. Baker and Hughes are fully entrenched in Northeast Florida politics, although they’re still active in Tallahassee and other parts of the state. Baker lives here and his wife works in Curry’s administration. Hughes still lives in Tallahassee, but is a regular visitor to town. Plus, the two and Curry have regular discussions.

GOP vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence shares faith at First Baptist Church Jacksonville” via Teresa Stepzinski of the Florida Times-Union – Prayer not politics was the priority … Pence said as he and his wife, Karen, joined the congregation of First Baptist Church Jacksonville downtown for the 10:30 a.m. Sunday worship service. Pence received a warm welcome punctuated by repeated cheers, applause and standing ovations from the congregation that filled the church auditorium as he spoke of his religious faith, how the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks affected him and how Christians have a duty to vote as well as a duty to God … Pence then asked people to pray for the victims and first responders at the bombing Saturday night in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, an earlier blast in New Jersey and a knife attack at a Minnesota shopping mall. Although he like many others “is troubled in his heart” by those events, as a governor and candidate for national office, it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to comment on the ongoing investigations, he said. However, he said, “We are thankful in our hearts that there was no loss of life as a result of these horrific attacks, and [we] encourage everyone here to pray for those who are recovering from their injuries, especially pray for our brave first responders.”

Libertarian VP candidate William Weld to hold Jacksonville town hall Thursday” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – The Weld event, to take place from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the first floor of the Davis School of Business, will be moderated by J.U. Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney. The [GaryJohnson/Weld ticket, despite being up to 13 percent in a few polls nationally, has yet to break double digits in Florida. A recent CNN poll shows the Libertarian ticket at a modest 6 percent, which if it holds, nonetheless would be the strongest showing by a Libertarian candidate on a statewide ballot. In the 2014 race for governor, Adrian Wyllie drew 3.8 percent of the vote.

“A look at finances of John Rutherford, Dave Bruderly” via Florida Politics – Rutherford benefits from healthy public pensions and conservative investments, as his May filing suggests … Rutherford draws $131,694 a year from the Police and Fire Pension Fund, and another $48,000 from the State of Florida Department of Management … Rutherford and his wife have a rental property, valued between $250,001 and $500,000, from which they derive income ranging from $15,001 to $50,000. The former Jacksonville sheriff also has between $50,001 and $100,000 at the City and Police Federal Credit Union, with under $1,000 of interest income … Rutherford has a 457(b) deferred compensation retirement plan with Jefferson National, valued between $100,001 and $250,000. And a New York Life policy with the same valuation range. Rutherford did loan his campaign $50,000 ahead of the primary, suggesting a willingness to invest in his candidacy; however, odds are good he won’t have to do anything similar in the general election in the heavily Republican district. Democrat Bruderly is somewhat less well-heeled … Bruderly has a rental property in Gainesville, valued at under $100,000, from which he derives between $5,001 and $15,000. He also holds “river/ranch land” in Bradford/Gilchrist, valued between $50,001 and $100,000 … Bruderly has under $15,000 in checking with Bank of America, and a number of small accounts of various types, with valuations ranging from $1,001 to $15,000. Bruderly also has a number of investment accounts.

Status conference set for Oct. 25 in Corrine Brown, Ronnie Simmons trial” via Florida Politics – Neither Brown nor Simmons have to attend. Counsel for the defendants and prosecutors have already agreed to push the trial back to February 2017, with defense counsel noting the voluminous discovery burden — encompassing 77,000 pages of documents. While defense lawyers agree on the proposed trial commencement term, there may be divergence on strategy. Simmons’ lawyer, Anthony Suarez, has noted the very good likelihood of a plea deal being the final resolution of the case. Brown’s lawyer, James Smith, is opposed to such a plea deal. More will be learned Oct. 25, if not before then, in a trial that has been flush with procedural moves but bereft of meaningful progress since the July 6 indictment was served.

Brown seeks ‘legal defense’ funds” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics –Brown has a message for her supporters: send money now … To that end, a new website reflects the new operational reality for the 23-year congresswoman … The Corrine Brown Legal Defense Trust is “under construction,” a cyberspace synecdoche for her defense efforts themselves, which have exhausted the efforts of three sets of lawyers, and now are being handled by Orlando barrister James Smith, who is adamant the case will not be plea bargained, but instead will go to trial. “They redrew my district in order to make it harder for me to be re-elected. Then sadly, July 8, 2016, I was falsely accused by the federal government. It is not a coincidence that these charges were filed immediately prior to my Aug. 30 Primary Election, which I ultimately lost. I am a woman of integrity and I categorically deny the charges,” Brown writes. “I am fighting the Department of Justice, which has unlimited resources. They have smeared my good name. They are trying to take my freedom. I am asking for your help to fight these false charges. On this website, you can make a donation to my legal defense fund. Any contribution would be greatly appreciated,” Brown added. Unlike with campaigns, there is no cap on “legal defense” contributions.


What Aaron Bean is up to – At 10 a.m. Wednesday, state Sen. Bean will tour Edward Waters College, 1658 Kings Road in Jacksonville. At noon, the Fernandina Beach Republican will speak to the Kiwanis Club of Deercreek, 7816 McLaurin Road in Jacksonville, about the 2016 Legislative Session.

Florida Chamber series on free enterprise: Quintin Kendall” via the Florida Chamber of Commerce – From intermodal systems, rail lines, ports and how Florida’s transportation is connected in more ways than one … Kendall discusses the role trade plays in Florida’s future: “At the very basics its government encouraging, not constraining, private investments in job creation. Here in Florida, Gov. Scott has done a great job keeping taxes low and encouraging a positive business climate. And the Florida DOT has been highly effective in leveraging private investments to maximize the value of the limited amount of public funding that can be put forth toward transportation. But on a global level, and this is especially important during this tumultuous election year, we must ensure that the United States remains committed to free trade doctrines, because free trade is essential to free enterprise. If we make the mistake of raising tariffs, we raise taxes on Americans buying products here and we raise taxes on American goods moving abroad making U.S. products less competitive, and that’s bad for free enterprise and that’s bad for Florida.”

Jacksonville’s University Club to close; where does First Coast Tiger Bay Go? via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – For political junkies, the closing of the space on the 27th floor of the Southbank’s Riverplace Tower has an especial effect: it will force the monthly First Coast Tiger Bay Club to relocate … While other political events, such as a recent meet-and-greet with Congressional District 5’s Democratic nominee Al Lawson, happen there, Tiger Bay’s monthly meetings have offered uniquely elevated debates that get coverage routinely by local media. Perhaps the most lively debate First Coast Tiger Bay held this campaign season was a barnburner of a GOP primary debate between public defender candidates Charles Cofer and Matt Shirk … which turned out to be the only debate of the season between Cofer, the ultimate nominee, and the incumbent he trounced by 50 points Aug. 30. However, with just three meetings left this year for First Coast Tiger Bay, uncertainty looms over where the organization relocates to after its November meeting, said Secretary Henry Cordes Thursday. Cordes said there was “urgency” to find a new location in an expedited timeframe, with the decision of the University Club’s parent corporation to close the Jacksonville location one that “sets us back a little bit … We’re regrouping, to find out where we can go,” Cordes said.

Donna Deegan is ready to talk politics. And Jacksonville will listen.” via Florida Politics – Deegan, a Jacksonville native and an alumna of Bishop Kenny High School, anchored for First Coast News from 1992 to 2016, showing in that role a penchant for hard news and a willingness to dive into challenging stories. … Deegan long ago transcended her former role as newscaster. Now, she’s entering a different space — the world of the podcast, which will begin Oct. 6 at the new downtown Jacksonville hot spot: Intuition Ale Works. The Political Happy Hour (also branded as #JaxPol: The Live Edition) will be a collaboration with Abel Harding, a veteran of the Alvin Brown administration, and the Florida Times-Union. Harding and Deegan clearly wanted to get back in the game, and the podcast is a way to do it. Deegan said Harding suggested it via email; he missed talking about politics, and so did she, noting that “the only thing [she misses] about broadcast journalism” is the ability to do deep dives into political issues. For Deegan — a cousin of the ever-loquacious Councilman Tommy Hazouri — politics is “bloodsport” in her family. One can expect that, for both Harding and Deegan, the ability to go in-depth and no-holds-barred on political topics will be welcome; though both have copious experiences on the news end, the nature of a podcast allows — even demands — more editorial license. As does the nature of recording a podcast during Happy Hour at a raucous brew house.

JAA board of directors elects new officers, hires Fiorentino Group as consultants” – The Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) elected Patrick Kilbane as chair for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Kilbane is director of the Divorce Advisory Group, General Counsel and Wealth Advisor at Ullmann Brown Wealth Advisors. He also serves on the 4th Judicial Circuit Nominating Commission. Kilbane was appointed to the JAA in 2014 by Gov. Scott. The board of directors also elected Marks Gray law firm shareholder Giselle Carson as vice chair, Demetree Brothers, Inc. President Jay Demetree as secretary and Availity chief executive officer Russ Thomas as treasurer… In addition, JAA awarded its State Government Relations Consultant Contract to The Fiorentino Group.

JEA proposing base electric rate decrease” via Max Marbut of the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record – Ultimately, a proposal JEA will present its board … would save customers monthly while helping the authority pay down debt and deal with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. That plan is forcing utilities nationwide to shift toward natural gas, nuclear and solar energy generation. The utility is required to evaluate its rate structure every five years and adjust the base rate to reflect the true cost of providing electricity. The latest study showed the base rate, which includes costs other than fuel, should be slightly increased for residential customers and somewhat decreased for most commercial customers. On the fuel charge side of the bill, all customers would see a reduction. That would eliminate the annual or semiannual fuel charge rebates JEA has been issuing to customers totaling about $170 million the past four years. Instead, there would be a monthly decrease in the charge. According to the proposal, the net bill reduction for a residential customer would be 0.2 percent, or about $1 per month. A large demand commercial customer could see a reduction of 4.9 percent, about $3,500 a month.

JAXPORT voted No. 1 for customer service in the South” via LogisticsMgmt.com – We’re now reading reports that several East Coast ports are already busy unloading larger, deeper-draft vessels without a hitch, and, to the surprise of some, the West Coast ports are handling more cargo than ever, attracting fleets of “mega-carriers” that the newly-expanded Panama Canal will never be able to accommodate … In the South, the Jacksonville Port Authority put up an impressive 55.99, the highest score in the entire category.

JTA CEO Nat Ford elected Vice Chair of America Public Transportation Association” via the Jacksonville Transportation Authority – “I am honored that APTA members have elected me as Vice Chair,” said Ford. “I am committed to pursuing innovative ways to strengthen and improve public transportation and ensure it is reliable and accessible for everyone in cities and towns across the Nation.” APTA is the nation’s leading force in advancing public transportation. APTA members are public entities providing bus, light rail, commuter rail, subway and waterborne passenger services, as well as high-speed rail and paratransit services. Ford’s career spans more than three decades, including a combined 15 years as CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (2012-present), the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (2006-2011), and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (2000-2006).

St. Johns County addressing short-term needs in face of growing demands” via Jake Martin of the St. Augustine Record – The St. Johns County Commission … will consider adoption of its millage rates and total budget of $673,825,559 for fiscal year 2017. Officials have said the proposed budget is enough to keep programs and services afloat, and address short-term needs, but not much else. Although the budget is up from about $632 million this year, the majority of that increase is coming from rollover funds for projects budgeted in previous years that are yet to be completed. The county’s General Fund is up to $195,958,367 from $195,832,767 as listed in the tentative budget approved by commissioners on Sept. 6. This figure is also up from $185,046,363 adopted in 2016 and $179,507,263 in 2015. Expected property tax growth of 8.9 percent translated to $5 million in funding to maintain status quo operations across the board and just $3.9 million in discretionary funding. Meanwhile, there were about $22.7 million in budget requests. Of the $3.9 million in discretionary funding, $2.3 million is going to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. This includes $1.7 million for the addition of 12 on-the-street uniformed deputies and other operational requests, as well as $600,000 for jail controls.

Sheriff big winner in county budget” via Jake Martin of the St. Augustine Record – Expected property tax growth of 8.9 percent translated to $5 million in funding to maintain status quo operations across the board and just $3.9 million in discretionary funding. Meanwhile, there were about $22.7 million in budget requests. Of the $3.9 million in discretionary funding, $2.3 million is going to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. This includes $1.7 million for the addition of 12 on-the-street uniformed deputies and other operational requests, as well as $600,000 for jail controls. Sheriff David Shoartold the County Commission at its June 21 meeting that his office had not increased the number of sworn uniformed road deputies since 2007, and, in fact, the number had decreased by one. He also pointed to the county’s growth in population by about 50,000 over the same stretch of time. “No frills, no nice things to have, no programs,” Shoar told commissioners. “What we are asking for goes to the heart and soul of protecting our citizens.” Another $1 million is going toward additional construction costs for combining Fire Stations 5 and 11. That project could end up costing $2.7 million more than expected because of increasing construction costs, although Dunn has said there will still be savings in the long run. He said the Sheriff’s Office will also have a presence in the building, contributing to the increased costs.

Clay School Board adopts almost $380 million budget” via Teresa Stepzinski of the Florida Times-Union – The Clay County School Board voting unanimously has adopted a district budget totaling nearly $380 million and set a property tax rate of 6.7620 mills per $1,000 of taxable property … The district expects to generate slightly more than $68 million from all mill levies, according to budget documents Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs Susan Legutko presented to the board. The new rate is a decrease of 0.375 mills from the rate of 7.137 for 2015-16. The 2016-17 rate also is 1.75 percent less than the rolled-back rate, budget documents show. Under the 6.7620 mills rate, the owner of a $150,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay an annual school district property tax of $676.20. That is a decrease of $37.50 from the previous rate of 7.137 mills. The school district’s reserve fund — typically viewed as an indicator of overall fiscal health — will be above the state-mandated level of 3 percent in 2016-17, Legutko said …  the district ended the 2015-16 school year with about a 3.5 percent reserve fund balance. Cautioning that the budget is fluid, Legutko said the goal is for the reserve fund to be at least 3 percent, but it might be as much as 3.96 percent by June 30, 2017, when the 2016-17 school year ends. Florida law requires school districts to have at least 3 percent of its general fund in reserve.

Spotted – At the recently opened Intuition Ale Works in downtown Jacksonville: The Fiorentino Group’s Marty FiorentinoJoe MobleyMark Pinto and Allison Carter with state Sen. Jack Latvala.

Promise turns to disappointment for Jacksonville Jaguars” via Gary Shelton of Florida Politics – A season of promise has quickly become one of the most disappointing of seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars. A trendy pick to make the playoffs before the season began has unraveled in only two games. That’s how quickly the Jaguars returned to the NFC South basement. Sure, the Jags lost the first week, but it was only by four to a talented Green Bay team, and the NFL admitted 16 penalties should have gone the other way.

But Jacksonville lost to the Chargers Sunday, 38-14, and all of those good feelings of the draft and free agency have dwindled. Instead, Jackson is 0-2 for the fourth time in last six seasons. The Jags rushed for only 69 yards in their loss to San Diego, and almost half of those were by quarterback Blake Bortles. Bortles threw 50 times. He gained 329 yards through the air, but he threw two interceptions and was sacked three times.

For Jacksonville, the start is particularly disappointing. Before the season, general manager Dave Caldwell had suggested the Jags would be able to beat any team on their schedule after the additions of Jalen RamseyMyles Jack and the return of Dante Fowler. Instead, Jacksonville has been similar to the recent teams that have won only 19 games since 2010.

“You have to put that one on me,” said coach Gus Bradley, whose seat is getting warmer. “When a team comes out and doesn’t have the rhythm offensively and defensively they need to, as the head coach, I have to take a lot of the responsibility.”

It was 21-0 at the half and 35-0 after three quarters.

Said Bortles: “It’s pretty embarrassing.”

Of course, that’s true of the entire state of Florida, where the three NFL teams are a combined 1-5. But Jacksonville was supposed to be the best of the bunch. It hasn’t been.

Particularly disappointing for the Jags was the pass defense, which allowed four touchdown passes by Philip Rivers. According to the grades posted by the Florida Times-Union, the Jags earned F’s for passing offense, passing defense and coaching. They received D’s for run offense and run defense.

It doesn’t get a lot easier for Jacksonville, which plays Baltimore this weekend. After that, Jacksonville plays its annual game in London against Indianapolis.

Bradley has now won 12 of his 50 games coaching the Jags. “I don’t know if you define it by one game,” Bradley said. “I think the big thing is to see how we respond from this.”

Jags owner Shad Khan meets with London’s mayor in Chicago” via Jason Mealy of News 4 Jax –Khan met in Chicago Saturday with London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Shad Khan presented the mayor with a Jaguars jersey and helmet. The Jaguars say the two men met for about 20 minutes and talked about football and the soccer team that Shad Khan owns in England. Shad Khan invited the mayor to Wembley Stadium to watch the Jaguars play Indianapolis Oct. 2.

Jaguars DE Jared Odrick talks ‘Ballers’ appearance: ‘My goal is to take advantage of opportunities’” via Mike Kaye of WTLV – For … Odrick, the planning for his second career is taking place right now. Instead of solely focusing on the game, Odrick has spent his time away from football: networking and setting himself up for the long term. While most players are content on simply earning a paycheck and playing the game they love, Odrick is doing both of those things and prospering on a non-football level. The latest platform for the Penn State alum is HBO’s NFL-themed series “Ballers,” starring Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson and Rob Corddry. Odrick’s second appearance on the show – now in its second season – first aired Sunday night. “The thing about filming is you’re not sure what’s going to make the final edit,” Odrick said. “That’s the interesting part. I was there for two or three days, and it might just be a good 30 seconds that I’m on camera.” The former first round pick of the Miami Dolphins has really embraced the entertainment business. Odrick took part in a Hollywood boot camp program offered by the league and got a chance to learn more about the industry. He attributes his ability to adjust on the set of “Ballers” to the program, despite already being part of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” when he was in Miami. Odrick described “Ballers” and “Hard Knocks” as “two totally different types of productions.” However, he knows that both created opportunities for him to further his plans after football. “My goal is to take advantage of opportunities,” Odrick said. “My goal is not to push too hard toward one, my goal is to learn, take advantage of opportunities that are presented to me. I had the opportunity to act, so I did. I had the opportunity to produce, so I did. I had the opportunity to executive produce, so I did.”

Tweet of the weekend:


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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