Jacksonville bold for 9.25.16 — The Establishment Strikes Back

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As fans of the Rolling Stones know (as well as anyone who ever attended a Donald Trump rally): “You can’t always get what you want; but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

That maxim was proved true yet again this week, when the Jacksonville political establishment decided, seemingly all at once, that to save a superintendent’s job, it takes a village.

Consider Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, who has been under fire for some time now.

Coming into office with a reform agenda, Vitti had to deal with the same blowback that face reformers from outside his insular part of the world.

That blowback included a vituperative whisper campaign of character assassination.

A couple of years back, our NE Florida correspondent asked Vitti about such an attempt at character assassination.

To his credit, Vitti — in a late evening phone call — addressed it honestly and directly; no story was ever written.

However, there was more than a whisper campaign.  Vitti recognized very quickly that, in addition to an achievement gap in Duval County schools, there was also a deficit in resource allocation.

Areas of new construction – places seemingly preferred by those moving to Jacksonville – were beset by problems, including school overcrowding.

And in areas not at capacity – Northside and NW Jacksonville, for example – people weren’t moving there; housing stock is old, jobs are few, indigent population is huge, and bullets tend to fly.

Vitti pushed to close a few schools, consolidate others and turn some into magnets.

He got pushback.

“But those are neighborhood schools,” they said.

Never mind that those neighborhoods are struggling deeply.

Earlier this month, Vitti took it on the chin for learning outcomes.

Progress wasn’t quick enough, board members said, especially on reading and academic gaps for minority students.

Despite the board deeming him “effective,” Board Chair Ashley Smith-Juarez (who has a compensated role with the Clinton Foundation) wanted to show Vitti the door, telling him a meeting set for Friday involved his termination.

Eventually, word got out to the press. Soon thereafter, the cavalry rode in.

Community leaders, such as the Civic Council’s Ed Burr and the Chamber’s Audrey Moran, issued Wednesday several strong affirmations of the superintendent’s worth … right before a flustered Smith-Juarez backpedaled. She claimed it was never her intention to have Friday’s school board meeting be an up or down vote on Vitti’s tenure, as was strongly rumored.

The political establishment in this city can’t always get it done. The HRO is a great example of that.

But in the case of Vitti, they compelled Smith-Juarez to stand down … at a time when the board has only six members; in the case of a tie, Smith-Juarez could be given a second, tie-breaking vote.

Which means, effectively, that if Smith-Juarez had called for a vote, she would only need two people to back her up.

Apparently, that’s not happening Friday. And that means anti-Vitti forces missed their best opportunity to can him.

With Nikolai Vitti’s future in question, Jacksonville City Council and school board meet” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – City Council President Lori Boyer vowed that the meeting between the school board and the council would steer clear of Vitti’s employment controversy, addressing more ordinary topics like school concurrency, hazardous walking conditions and charter school development. The meeting did avoid the Vitti question and did address those topics. And they are covered in some detail below the more interesting narrative: the apparent failed communication between Vitti and the chairwoman of the school board. School Board Chair Ashley Smith-Juarez’s open letter saying that she wanted Vitti out rendered the circumstances around the meeting Wednesdayextraordinary. Since it became public knowledge that Smith-Juarez wanted Vitti gone, community leaders, including Ed Burr of the Jacksonville Civic Council and Audrey Moran of the Jax Chamber, called for unity between the superintendent and the school board. Burr noted, in a press release ahead of the meeting, that the Civic Council was “pleased that … Smith-Juarez clarified the purpose of Friday’s meeting, since now is not the time to discuss whether to change superintendents, as reported in the media. Rather, our school board members and superintendent should jointly focus on the quality of education for our children. We are confident that they can rise above any adversity that may exist in order to create a world class education system.”

In meeting with school board chair, Lenny Curry advocates for Vitti” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Curry offered an extended statement … on the substance of the meeting and his beliefs on the path forward. “As CEO of this city and father of three children enrolled in Duval County Public Schools,” Curry wrote, “I have an interest in any and all efforts being taken to improve and strengthen public education in Jacksonville. As important issues are presented to me, I will use my office and voice to advocate for what I believe is right” … “In this instance,” Curry adds, “I met with the School Board Chair this afternoon to understand the needs and concerns and offer my support in facilitating what’s best for the kids in Duval County Public Schools” … “While the School Board is independently elected and I have no jurisdiction or authority over them. I expressed my opinion that I strongly disagree with the fighting between the School Board and superintendent being played out publicly on our front pages and that I do not believe Dr. Vitti’s termination would be in the best interest of children.”

JAXBIZ endorses Barbara Toscano for open seat on Duval County School Board” – JAXBIZ, the nonprofit, nonpartisan political organization affiliated with JAX Chamber, is endorsing Toscano for the open District 7 seat on the Duval County School Board. Toscano is currently an English teacher at Douglas Anderson School for the Arts. “To be a great city, we must have a great public education system,” JAXBIZ Board Chair Denise Wallace said. “It is critical that we have leaders on the board like Barbara who understand the governance role of the school board – to provide oversight and set policy while empowering the superintendent to run the day-to-day operations.”

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“Curry talks pay raises as union negotiations continue” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union – Curry suggested … his comprehensive proposal for changing the city’s pension system will include pay raises for city employees. Curry, speaking at the start of a collective bargaining session with the Jacksonville Supervisors Association, outlined the principles that will shape the proposal he puts forward in labor talks. “These principals include the recognition that employees have not been fairly compensated, have taken pay cuts and have not had pay raises,” Curry said. “My offer will reflect my commitment to city employees and the value of their contributions.” Curry did not specify any specific figures during his two-minute speech, which mainly emphasized broad themes for the upcoming sessions with six organizations that represents city workers. Curry said his comprehensive package will propose “new plans for new employees that solve this problem once and for all — plans that are sustainable, market-driven, value new employees, attract and retain new employees, and are consistent with what hard-working citizens expect. And finally, the new plans must put our financial future in our hands, under our control.” Curry said in January he favored moving new hires into 401(k) style individual retirement accounts. He did not say Thursday whether his proposal would seek to make that change.

Eureka Garden owner: ‘clock has run out on us’” via Sebastian Kitchen of the Florida Times-Union –The Rev. Richard Hamlet, CEO of Global Ministries Foundation, met with Mayor Lenny Curry at City Hall … the day before a U.S. Senate hearing on conditions in some of his complexes and on his business practices. Curry, Hamlet, City Council member Garrett Dennis and a representative of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office discussed the pending sale of the properties and security at Eureka, the site of a recent cocaine bust and a separate shooting of seven people. “We’re sticking with it. We’re going to do the best we can all the way to the end,” Hamlet said after the closed-door meeting. “Hopefully that’s going to be the end of the year.” Hamlet said Global has continued to work and have repaired the staircases at the complex, but said there is still more work needed at Eureka. “The residents are our priority,” said Hamlet, who said he would be back in Jacksonville next month. Dennis said “at the end of the day, we still have people living” at Eureka and the other properties. “The clock has run out on us,” Hamlet said. He said federal housing officials did not allow Global Ministries to bring in more investment and make more substantive improvements. “I apologize if we didn’t meet expectations,” Hamlet said.

Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio, Eureka Gardens tenant address Senate subcommittee” via Lynnsey Gardner of News 4 Jax – Tracey Grant told a U.S. Senate subcommittee … that the unit she rented for herself and her children was full of mold, had no air conditioning and regularly flooded. “Gas leaks sent some of our residents to the hospital, and persistent mold made it hard to breathe sometimes. Repair crews often did more harm than good, like when they had to shut off the heat in November. There was even a case where a child had a case of lead poisoning,” Grant told senators. “Crime is still a problem. About a month ago, seven people were shot at Eureka Garden, including a 20-year-old mother of two. I realized this was not an environment that I wanted my children to have to grow up in and I wanted to do something about it.” Grant testified to the Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation and Community Development, which is considering a bill that would change federal Department of Housing and Urban Development rules on the inspection process of subsidized housing projects. She is there at the invitation of … Rubio, who put Eureka Gardens in the national spotlight and proposed the bill. Rubio and Florida’s other U.S. senator, Nelson, testified about what he saw during a visit to Eureka Gardens. “The conditions at these properties are unacceptable,” Nelson said. “I challenge the owners of these properties to spend a week in their own buildings. I doubt any of them will take me up on that, though.”

In Jacksonville, Donald Trump’s campaign is kicking into high gear” via Florida Politics – Enthusiasm and support was evident … at the opening of the Trump Victory Center on Beach Boulevard, where approximately 100 people showed up for pizza, signs, and for what amounted to a pep rally for all things Trump. Duval GOP chair Cindy Graves told FloridaPolitics.com that Saturday, volunteers knocked on 10,000 doors, which Graves said was a “record for the entire nation.” Graves said that enthusiastic ground game is translating to the finance report as well, with “brand-new donors from every walk of life and every industry” ponying up. The so called “never Trump” people, at least in Duval County, are falling behind the nominee also. Graves spoke of a woman who was of that persuasion in June, but this month she brought 20 other ladies to a “Women for Trump” event. Sen. Aaron Bean, who warmed up the crowd around 6:00, let them know where he saw the effort: one of Duval County being “ground zero of saving the country” … “I could say ‘welcome Patriots’ or ‘welcome Deplorables,’ but I would be repeating myself,” Bean quipped. When asked about whether the effort was starting too late, as some in the media have suggested, Bean said that “people are starting now to pay attention … people see our country, values, and way of life are at stake.”

Libertarian VP candidate William Weld said he’s in the race to win” via Kevin Meerschaert of WJCT –Former Massachusetts Governor Weld laughed when asked about a tweet sent out by longtime journalist Carl Bernstein … that stated Weld “could be a hero — instead of Nader” if he dropped his own Libertarian candidacy and endorsed and campaigned for Democrat Hillary Clinton … Weld said the Bernstein tweet and comments he received over the weekend felt like an organized effort to get him out of the race. “Somebody at Clinton headquarters blew a whistle or something because I got two dozen emails that day from people I didn’t know that said ‘Weld, unless you renounced your candidacy right now you’re going to be a pariah. Your name will be a hissing and a byword. You will go down in history as the worst guy who ever lived,’” he said. Weld said the more he and his running mate former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson are able to get out their message to voters, the more support they receive. “The plan is to get around the country and get better known,” he said. “We’re hoping we can get over that 15-percent bar that the Commission (on Presidential Debates) has erected to participate in the debates and we’ll be in debates two and three.” Weld said their campaign is the one that is fiscally conservative and socially inclusive. He said that doesn’t describe the campaign being run by the two major parties.

Will Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy debate in Jacksonville?” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics –The Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute, in conjunction with WJXT-TV, has hosted a number of meaningful debates in the last couple of years … Now, the non-partisan Public Policy Institute wants the two major party candidates for the United States Senate to debate. So far, one of them (Marco Rubio) has confirmed a willingness to debate. And the Public Policy Institute has indicated a willingness to set a date that works for both campaigns. PPI director Rick Mullaney extended an invitation to Rubio and Rep. Patrick Murphy to a televised debate before the election. Mullaney, a veteran of politics himself, understands the nature of political scheduling, and he’s said that the broadcast partners would be “flexible” on the date. Murphy, thus far, has not responded to the invitation, but Mullaney is “hopeful” that response will come and will be affirmative.

State legislators back Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham for re-election” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – State Senators Aaron Bean and Audrey Gibson and State Representatives Janet AdkinsLake RayCharles McBurney and Jay Fant all endorsed Latham … Bean noted that Latham’s “designation by the Florida League of Cities as a ‘2016 Home Rule Hero’ speaks volumes about his efforts and his reputation.” And Gibson, a Democrat, crossed party lines for a rare endorsement from her for a Republican. “Mayor Latham and I worked very closely together to obtain $30.2M to fix a 50+ year flooding problem on A1A in Jacksonville Beach. I watched him work tirelessly with the Florida Department of Transportation and members of the Legislature to make this happen,” Gibson stated.

(Rubber) check please – Mayor bounces $120 check for election fee” via Mary McGuire of Folio Weekly –Fernandina Beach Mayor Johnny Miller, who is running for election to the city commission, which he previously served on before becoming mayor, bounced a $120 check from his campaign account to cover an election fee, according to finance records released by the city. While Miller was expected to have the money in the bank by the Aug. 5 qualifying deadline, the check was declined Aug. 18. The city clerk said Sept. 13 that Miller is allowed to stay in the race under a state statute dealing with candidates in nonpartisan elections that have checks returned for “any reason.” The situation came to light Sept. 13 after Miller’s August campaign treasurer’s report was posted on the Nassau County Supervisor of Elections website with a $36 return check fee and a cashier’s check for $127. According to Clerk Caroline Best, the state provides candidates another opportunity to pay the fee but there are conditions: the candidate must pay the fee with a cashier’s check within 48 hours of notification (excluding weekends and holidays). Best said she alerted Miller and his campaign treasurer – his wife Lori Miller – “immediately” to let them know the check had been declined and the clock was ticking. Best said that Miller’s wife banked the cashier’s check Aug. 22 under the 48-hour deadline and that “all is well.”


Jacksonville attorney accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with clients” via WTLV  –  A Duval County criminal defense attorney faces a misdemeanor charge of battery after allegedly touching an inmate in a sexual manner while in jail. On Sept. 16, 2016, Anthony W. Blackburn, 45, was arrested at his home by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on one misdemeanor account of simple battery per Florida Statue F.S.S. 784.03 (1)(A). According to police records, Blackburn is believed to have behaved in an inappropriate sexual manner by showing pornographic images to two of his clients and inappropriately touching at least one Sept. 3, 2016 at the John E. Goode Pre-Trial Detention Facility in Downtown Jacksonville. Inmate Kristina A. Dillman told Detective E. Cayenne of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office that the defendant had spent approximately 16 minutes with her in a closed interview room with the lights off on Sept. 3. Dillman also told authorities that the defendant touched and spoke to her in ways that were of an unwanted sexual nature. In a phone conversation recorded on Sept. 4, inmate Dillman was heard telling a friend about her experience with the defendant and his inappropriate behavior the day before. On Sept. 14, 2016, two inmates of interest were interviewed by authorities in regards to the Sept. 3 meeting at the Duval County Jail.

Latitude 360 CEO Brent Brown in BuzzFeed report: ‘I don’t owe anybody s—‘” via Action News Jax  – BuzzFeed published a lengthy article on failed Jacksonville hot spot Latitude 360 in which … Brown defended himself in the wake of multiple lawsuits and allegations that he stole money from investors and employees … The venue was first called “Latitude 30” before the name was changed to Latitude 360, and Brown told BuzzFeed the sprawling facility took in over $100,000 the first weekend it was open … One investor called Brown a “mini Bernie Madoff” in the article. In the piece, which totals nearly 8,000 words, writer Matt Stroud goes into detail about the failings of the company, which shuttered its Jacksonville location in Jan. 2016 near The Avenues Mall. BuzzFeed reported that shareholders trusted by Brown lost over $100 million. Stroud … said that he met with Brown multiple times around Jacksonville this summer. Stroud also spoke extensively with Aaron Riley, the former Jacksonville University football player who said he lost a $90,000 Aston Martin luxury car when he traded it for Latitude 360 stock that is now worthless.

Reservations available for fundraiser at University Club in Jacksonville to benefit veterans, ALS research” via Joe Daraskevich of the Florida Times-Union – The 10th annual ClubCorp Charity Classic kicks off at 5:30 p.m. at the club on the Southbank of the St. Johns River in the 27th floor of Riverplace Tower, 1301 Riverplace Blvd. All proceeds from the event will benefit the National Association for Veterans and Families, Augie’s Quest and ClubCorp’s Employee Partners Care Foundation. The evening starts with a silent auction followed by a three-course dinner, live music and a guest speaker. People can sign up for reservations or make donations at http://bit.ly/UclubCharity. Admission is $75 per person. The National Association for Veterans and Families is a nonprofit based in Green Cove Springs that helps veterans and their families obtain benefits from the government.

Jacksonville’s safety standards for downtown parklets exceed other cities” via Max Marbut of the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record – When Downtown’s first parklet opens for business, it will set a new standard for public open spaces built within the boundaries of a metered parking spot. Parklets have been along urban streets for years in several cities around the U.S. and the world, but when the Downtown Investment Authority and Downtown Vision Inc. commissioned the design for the first one in Jacksonville, the main focus was on safety. While most other parklets are built on platforms suspended above adjustable levelers, Jacksonville’s design standard requires a poured concrete base with an 18-inch-high steel-reinforced concrete barrier around the three sides not facing the sidewalk. “The city wanted a sturdy platform that could deflect a car if it veered into the parklet,” said Jason Fisher, principal architect at Content Architecture and Interiors, who was commissioned for the design. “It will be a lot safer than in other cities.” The parklet also will be protected by wheel stops to maintain a 4-foot boundary between it and the adjacent parking spaces as well as flexible bollards to prevent a driver attempting to parallel-park from contacting the parklet. “They’ll make noise, so you’ll know you’ve hit something,” Fisher said.

Jacksonville Transportation Authority scores $399K federal grant for ‘rides to wellness’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – The FTA grant, part of its “Rides to Wellness Initiative,” is intended to encourage people who need non-emergency health care to use mass transit, claimed the JTA in a press release With the federal funds, JTA expects to develop an “interface between the medical system’s software and JTA’s TransPortal, the One Call/One Click Transportation Resource Center.” That interface will allow, “with one click,” appointment schedulers to know mass transit times and costs that fit the appointments available. That information can be used by those scheduling appointments to find the best travel option for the patient. JTA CEO Nat Ford said this program will “help open the lines of communication between medical staff and transportation providers.”

New nonstop flight for Jacksonville” via Jensen Werley of the Jacksonville Business Journal – … this time to Cleveland on Allegiant Air. The new service will begin Feb. 16. The year-round flights will operate twice weekly between Jacksonville International Airport and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Allegiant has added several flights to Jacksonville since entering the market in February 2015. The airline flies to Belleville, Illinois/ St. Louis, Missouri; Indianapolis; New Orleans; Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Memphis and Pittsburgh. To celebrate the new service, Allegiant is offering a temporary ultra-low on-way fare of $50. To use that offer, purchased via the Allegiant website, tickets must be purchased by Sept. 28, 2016, and travel must happen before May 14, 2017.

UNF launches task force to help grow its entrepreneurship involvement” via Jensen Werley of the Jacksonville Business Journal – The University of North Florida is launching a task force made up of business people and representatives from various colleges in the university, all with the goal to grow UNF’s entrepreneurship outreach. The group, which starts meeting next week, is tasked with giving guidance and recommendations to the university on how it should get involved in entrepreneurship, including scouting out potential locations for an entrepreneurship center.

UF accelerated nursing program relaunches in Jacksonville” via John Engel of WOKV – The program compresses a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the UF College of Nursing into a 15-month period for students who already have a bachelor’s degree. The Institute of Medicine recommends that 80 percent of nurses have baccalaureate degrees by 2020, though a 2013 Florida Center for Nursing report found only 38 percent of Northeast Florida registered nurses have that qualification. Anna McDaniel, dean of the UF College of Nursing, says the partnership between the college and UF Health in Jacksonville is ideal, given the coming expansion of a facility near the Jacksonville International Airport. “(UF Health Jacksonville) needs nurses,” McDaniel told WOKV. “We’re proud that we can partner with them to produce nurses.” Twenty-four students are participating in the program in its first year back, with the plan being for 48 to participate next year. The accelerated program in Jacksonville was canceled because of budget cuts around 10 years ago, according to McDaniel. Since the Gainesville campus is at capacity, it made sense to relaunch the program in Jacksonville.

Paul Dougherty, MD, named chair of UF department of orthopaedic surgery in Jacksonville” via the University of Florida Health – Dougherty comes to Jacksonville from Detroit Medical Center/Wayne State University in Detroit, where he served as a professor of orthopaedic surgery and program director of their orthopaedic surgery residency. From 2008 through 2013, Dougherty was a clinical associate professor and program director in the department of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Michigan. He was also a staff surgeon at the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In addition, he retired as a colonel in the Medical Corps of the United States Army Reserve in 2012. “We are privileged to have Dr. Dougherty as the new chair of the orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation, and anticipate great departmental accomplishments as he assumes his new roles,” said George R. Wilson, MD, senior associate dean for clinical affairs at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville.

Panelists announced for Outlook on Caribbean Trade at 2017 JAXPORT conference” via the Jacksonville Port Authority – Speakers for the Outlook on Caribbean Trade panel at JAXPORT’s 2017 Logistics and Intermodal Conference scheduled for March 21 will be: Craig Mygatt – CEO SeaLand; Anthony Chiarello – President and CEO TOTE Inc.; Mitch Luciano – President and CEO Trailer Bridge, Inc.; John Hourihan – Senior vice president Crowley Puerto Rico Services; Sergio Sandrin – President Aqua Gulf Transport; Anthony McAuley – Director, Global Logistics Wal-Mart Stores Inc.; Panelists will explore the short and long-term potential for increased trade with Cuba, the future of the Jones Act, the outlook for trade with Puerto Rico, and factors influencing trade as a whole in the Caribbean. The panel will be moderated by JAXPORT CEO Brian Taylor. The three-day event includes: Opening networking reception on the evening of March 20, a full day of panel discussions and keynote presentations March 21 and a golf tournament March 22 at Slammer & Squire Course at the World Golf Village.

Nation’s oldest city receives a new historic designation” via Blake Allen of WJCT – The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is one of six recent Florida additions to the National Register of Historic Places, announced by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner … The Fountain of Youth is one of Florida’s oldest legends, based on Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon’s search for eternal youth. The tourist attraction was purchased and developed by Walter B. Fraser in 1927, and is currently operated by a board of directors composed of the Fraser family. But the history of tourism at Ponce de Leon’s famed fountain dates even further back. “Interestingly we have signed guestbooks that stretch all the way back to just after the Civil War, 1867 to be exact,” according to Kit Keating, a spokesman for the park. Keating said it was always a family goal to get the park on the National Register of Historic Places, and it’s a point of pride for the Fraser family.

St. Augustine mayor seeks more paving funding; commissioner disagrees” via The Associated Press – Nancy Shaver’s most recent call for increased paving dollars in the city budget — via a letter sent to and published in The St. Augustine Record earlier this week — has sparked support from some residents. But one commissioner has a different view. “It’s either misunderstanding of what our budget is or it’s just political stuff,” Commissioner Todd Neville said. “It’s one or the other.” Shaver said the city’s more than $500,000 budget for paving falls short of the minimum needed to maintain city roads and avoid added expense from deferring maintenance. She pointed out the issue in her letter, which encouraged residents to take action. Overall the city’s roads have about a “D” grade, meaning they’re considered in poor to fair condition and are “mostly below standard, with many elements approaching the end of their service life,” according to the city’s baseline assessment of infrastructure completed in 2015. Shaver, who is up for re-election, said she expected some people to connect the letter with elections coming in November. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Shaver told The Record, adding the commission’s job is to provide oversight. “We’re charged with asking the hard questions [and understanding whether the budget is on track].”

Failing septic tanks endanger St. Johns River” via Tarik Minor, Jodi Mohrmann and Eric Wallace of News 4 Jax – Along Doctors Inlet, the I-TEAM found fishermen casting their nets, as well as an algae bloom so toxic that biologists said it could kill a small animal or make a person who consumes the algae very sick. “It was highly toxic,” said Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper. “In fact, it was 120 times more toxic than safe recreational standards set by the World Health Organization.” Rinaman said she attributes the algae blooms to a number of factors, including overfertilized yards, industrial pollutants and the more than 20,000 failing septic tanks in Jacksonville. In 2006, a $700 million agreement, known as The River Accord, set out a series of steps aimed at helping the river, such as eliminating outdated wastewater treatment plants and maximizing reclaimed water. The legislation, signed by then-Mayor John Peyton, set out to replace 21,000 septic tanks with connections to city sewer services. However, many of those septic tanks are still failing, and Rinaman is not satisfied with the city’s efforts to replace the tanks. “The city of Jacksonville has been trying to tackle the septic tank problem for a long time, and it’s woefully short,” she said. “There are thousands negatively impacting our neighborhoods and waterways that need to be dealt with.” When asked who is to blame for the city’s shortcomings in fixing septic tanks, [City Council President LoriBoyer said if anyone was to blame, she would blame the economy. “Maybe I can say that the choices that have been made in Jacksonville, that are made by the voters and by the elected officials, have been that we wanted to keep our taxes low, and our citizens wanted to keep more of their money for themselves,” Boyer said.

Flagler College professor weighs in on police shootings” via Erica Bennett of Action News Jax – For some, what happened to Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte and Terence Crutcher in Tulsa is the tip of the iceberg. Both men were shot by police; police said Scott was armed, while his family said he was holding a book. Crutcher was not armed. In a helicopter video, officers are seen trailing Crutcher to his stalled SUV with guns drawn and his hands in the air. He was unarmed, yet he was shot and killed. Before Officer Betty Shelby pulled the trigger, an officer in the chopper is heard saying, “He looks like a big, bad dude.” Dr. Michael Butler, professor of history at Flagler College, believes that has to be addressed. “Absolutely there’s a stereotype of black men in America, and that’s part of the historical continuity,” he explained. Dr. Butler said from a historical perspective, the preconceived notions go back to slavery and Reconstruction. “It’s during Reconstruction that this idea of whites needing to use extra-legal force to keep blacks in their ‘so-called place,'” said Butler. We asked Preston if he thinks there’s a race problem in America. His reply? “I do.”

Horse rescued from septic muck in Bunnell by St. Johns firefighter team that moved a tiger too,” via Dan Scanlan of the Florida Times-Union – The St. Johns County Fire Rescue’s special operations unit earned its stripes Tuesday morning when they carried a 700-pound tiger into a truck for a trip from St. Augustine to a Gainesville. Then members of the same unit hoofed it to Bunnell to help the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office rescue a horse stuck in a flooded septic tank. Toruk the white tiger was moved from his enclosure in the St. Augustine Wild Reserve to the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine for medical treatment. Then came Mercy, a 24-year-old horse stuck in the muck up to its neck on Clove Avenue.

Happening Wednesday – The Monique Burr Foundation for Children hosts the first annual Champions for Child Safety Luncheon, with keynote speaker Erin Merryn. Doors open 10:30 a.m., luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m. at the University of North Florida Adam W. Herbert University Center, 12000 Alumni Dr. in Jacksonville. More information and tickets are at https://mbfchildsafetymatters.org/champions-child-safety-luncheon/.

Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation provides outreach van for city’s military division” via David Chapman of the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record – The city’s Military and Veterans Affairs Department has been driven to increase the level of service it provides area veterans. Soon those outreach efforts will include driving, too. The department is receiving a specially branded, patriotic van with scenes of military personnel and contact information for the office. Red, white and blue, of course. The scenes come from EverBank Field and Jacksonville Jaguars games, which isn’t coincidental. The van is being provided to the office via a multiyear grant from the Jaguars Foundation. The nonprofit side of the team awarded a $1 million grant spread over five years to assist the military-missioned office. The grant is now in the third year. The grant doesn’t cover just the vehicle or other special projects. It covers the everyday checks the office cuts to help veterans with short-term needs to stave off evictions, keep the lights on or assist with legal issues. They’re smallish in nature — typically $200-$300 — for veterans who meet U.S. Housing and Urban Development thresholds. Those who seek help but have bills that aren’t critical — think large cable bills, multiple cellphones and the like — receive budget counseling.

Jacksonville Zoo Guest Appreciation Week” via the Jacksonville Zoo  & Gardens – As it nears 1 million visitors, the Zoo thanks everyone with $10 General Admission, 10 percent off memberships and current members can bring 2 guests free with discounted value bands available to members all week long. Saturday, Sept. 24, is the blow-out celebration with a DJ in the Range of the Jaguar, face-painters in the Trout River Gardens, garden tours, animal encounters and keeper chats. Additionally, guests can enter to win tickets to the sold-out Brew at the Zoo! Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens is at 370 Zoo Pkwy. in Jacksonville.

After nightmarish start, Jags still believe” via Gary Shelton of Florida Politics – A promising season for the Jacksonville Jaguars has gotten off to a nightmarish start. Still, the Jags say they believe.

And, no, they are not playing for coach Gus Bradley‘s job.

“I don’t know,” said quarterback Blake Bortles. “I’m sure you can sit there and say that. We don’t worry about that. I think we expect to go out and win every Sunday. We expect to be successful. And we expect to be here and play for Gus a really long time.”

Perhaps. But an 0-2 beginning has outsiders wondering if there really is anything different about Jacksonville.

“Gus does an unbelievable job of taking the blame for everything and kind of keeping that out of what we hear and what we talk about,” Bortles said. “That’s what he does and the kind of person he is. He’s an unbelievable head coach, and we take full responsibility for everything that we’ve done. I, as a quarterback, haven’t played well in two games and our offense hasn’t played well. I’m going to have to play better.”

Bradley said there was no problem with his team’s mentality. No one, he said, is ready to give up.

“This team is far away from that mindset. They were frustrated, and we went out there, and we thought we were going to play better than we did, and we didn’t play as well. We have to come back and get that right. I told you this team, and Blake is the leader. His mindset permeates through the locker room. They take on that personality.”

Wide receiver Alan Robinson has started slowly and running back Chris Ivory has been out. Those are two of the Jags problems. Bortles himself hasn’t been sharp.

“Last week it felt like we never really got into a rhythm so that was a little difficult,” Bortles said. “But it’s guys playing ARob [Allen Robinson] differently. Obviously, that’s going to take some downfield throws away. And then it’s on us to find more opportunities, to get ARob in the situations where he can beat the guy and get one-on-one coverages and do that stuff and then obviously I got to give him a chance to go make plays and throw the ball downfield.”

Bradley said his team has to pay attention to the more difficult tasks.

“Sweep the corners,” Bradley said. “In a room, you have to go and dig in the deep corners and do everything. It is easy to bring all the dirt to the middle. You have to go into the corners and dig out to find out – it really is a message about doing the little things. We have to do the little things, whether it is penalties, critical plays in critical situations, so just more consistent play.”

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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