Jacksonville Bold 10.14.16 — The power and the glory


Perhaps the smartest thing that the Lenny Curry political machine did this year was push the pension tax referendum to the August ballot and not November.

Because here it is October and a lot of people are irked with the mayor.

Earlier this week, Curry — perhaps unwisely in retrospect — advised people without power to email him.

Tuesday night, at a meeting of the Jacksonville City Council, Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa doubled-down on that recommendation.

And lo, the inbox swelled.

By Thursday morning, with 435 outages and over 12,000 JEA customers still out of power, the tone of inbox messages changed.

A prevailing theme: Why is it that when my neighbors have power, I do not?

One correspondent from Jacksonville’s Westside said the outage compromised her safety: “It’s dark and unsafe in this area, no patrol cars out … I understand we have to be patient but when the apartments behind the condo were restored last night, and we are the only building associated with this outage, seems something is amiss. If we continue to be without power, please at least have JSO patrol the area at night.”

Other correspondence addressed the impact of power outages on the elderly: “My grandparents are in Baldwin area … They are without power. They are 83 and 81 years old and dependent on a breathing machine for treatments. Their home is the only one on the street without power. JEA keeps saying their is more homes than them but it’s not. I have been there several times to check and all the neighbors have full power.  I need this addressed immediately. It’s time to stop taking and show me some action.” [SIC]

Still another: “Still no power and no sign of it being fixed anytime soon.  Also, no response or results from your office … Apparently, no one has any empathy for elders in our city. JEA has not even been out to assess the situation and only tells them that they are on the list but there are bigger priorities than a single house out.”

Curry has a response that he sent to at least one complainant: “JEA reports that they have successfully restored power to more than 90 percent of its customers, and advised me that their new goal for 100 percent restoration is today. JEA crews are currently working to restore power, and are being helped by utility crews from other parts of Florida and other states. Four times the normal manpower is being devoted to restoring power to all customers.”

All that may be true, but it’s cold comfort for those remaining few thousand customers without power.

At some point, a question must be asked: Why was Jacksonville in a position for “extensive tree damage” to knock out power in some areas for an entire week?

One factor could be the failure of the consolidated city model.

Some problems can be related to a historical, chronic understaffing of city departments — public works and code enforcement, for example — that lead to situations where trees citywide are growing unchecked, without regarding the inevitable impact on power lines.

Part of the failure, perhaps Jacksonville is a city is so geographically big that its sheer size and lack of genuine locality makes it ill-equipped to handle emergencies such as citywide power outages.

No Jacksonville politician can run for office with the motto of “I will expand your government.”

And, by and large, people want the government to leave them alone.

This holds true … until a crisis hits and everyone expects those in government to solve the issue, in about as much time as it might take to get a replacement meal at a fast-food restaurant.

When it hits the fan, even the most chest-thumpin’ conservatives become exponents for the “nanny state.”

Meanwhile, a word of advice for locals: invest in built-in, whole house generators. Odds are the next hurricane season, or the season after, you’re going to need it.

Hurricane Matthew brought out the best in us” via the Florida Times-Union editorial board – Now is the time to consider what lessons we learned, to prepare better the next time and be thankful that the hurricane stayed off the coast. The leadership displayed by Gov. Scott and Mayor Curry … consistently struck the right tone as they bluntly urge citizens to view the approaching hurricane as a serious safety threat — and take responsibility for making proper steps to prepare for it. Scott and Curry were decisive, firm and yes, reassuring, figures during hours and days of crisis. The devoted service shown by first responders, utility workers and emergency volunteers throughout the First Coast … The retail workers, big-business owners and small entrepreneurs … The inspiring spirit of countless citizens … who embraced selflessness over selfishness during Hurricane Matthew … The dedication of our region’s news media, including reporters, editors, photographers, production personnel, distribution workers and others at The Florida Times-Union … The fact that while Hurricane Matthew left numerous homes and areas battered, flooded and otherwise in need of all manner of physical, tangible repair, it did nothing to destroy the deep intangibles that are precious and invaluable for keeping both our state, region and city strong.

Up to $100M needed to get Jacksonville to normal after storm” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Mousa addressed the City Council on how recovery efforts are going after Hurricane Matthew. There is lots of work ahead, and that work will have to be exhaustively documented for reimbursement purposes, and it will cost millions of dollars. Mousa noted the process, including engaging contractors, would be done outside of council approval, though council would be updated. RFPs and bid packages would be used to hire contractors after Friday, when the state of emergency is lifted. The range of costs: between $25 million and $100 million. The bulk of the costs should be reimbursed from federal or state authorities, Mousa said. The takeaways: Mousa noted the state of emergency, still in effect from a week prior, was desired until Friday at least. The mayor’s office will have a report prepared for expenditures through 5 p.m. Friday. Part of the reason for extending the state of emergency: negotiating prices for big-ticket items such as an access road to Huguenot Park and repair to the Jacksonville Beach pier. “The expenses you see will grow,” Mousa told the council.

Rick Scott again directs state to investigate sewage spills” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – … but did not specify where that investigation would be conducted … Jacksonville’s water and electric utility reported 72 sewage spills, many perhaps as a result of power outages following Hurricane Matthew last week …”We must do all we can to protect our natural resources to ensure everyone in our state has access to clean and safe water,” Scott said in a news release Wednesday. “That is why I am directing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to examine the sewer overflows that occurred during hurricanes Hermine and Matthew to see why they happened and how we can prevent them in the future.” The governor’s news release … did not mention Jacksonville or any location by name. Jacksonville is led by Mayor Lenny Curry, who was a Republican Party of Florida executive under Scott.

CFO Jeff Atwater and Commissioner David Altmaier tour Hurricane Matthew’s path of damage in Northeast Florida” – Atwater and Altmaier were joined by multiple members of Florida’s Legislature, local leaders, and insurance company executives on a tour of Hurricane Matthew’s damage in St. John’s County. Following the tour, participants met to discuss the insurance industry’s claims-handling response. As of Wednesday morning, more than 39,302 insurance claims have been filed statewide, totaling an estimated $218 million in losses. “When disaster strikes, consumers need to find comfort in the belief that their insurers will respond, assess and pay claims quickly,” said Atwater. “The presence of industry representatives … instills confidence that this will be the case, and if not, we will be ready to address policyholder concerns immediately.” The Division of Consumer Services stands by ready to assist any consumer affected by Hurricane Matthew who needs assistance in the claims-filing process. The Division’s consumer help line provides direct access to insurance experts who can answer insurance-related questions and offers an abundance of information and resources to assist those in need. Additional post-storm information can be found on the Department’s disaster preparedness website at www.myfloridacfo.com/Hurricane Matthew. To reach the Division’s consumer help line call 1-877-693-5236, Monday – Friday8 a.m. – 5 p.m., EST. You can speak directly with experts who can help you review your policies to understand your coverage, help you file claims for damage, and offer assistance in the event that you are having trouble communicating with your insurance company.

JEA’s failure to meet self-imposed deadline to restore power angers council” via David Chapman the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record – Power outages to more than 60 percent of JEA customers led to a dedicated, aggressive effort to restore service. The dedication of the workers was praised Tuesday by City Council members. The performance of JEA management was not. The utility issued a notice Sunday saying power would be restored to all customers by 11:59 p.m. Monday, a deadline that wasn’t met and ended up backfiring on JEA. As of Tuesday evening, about 30,000 customers still were without power, leading council members to question the self-imposed deadline. About 25,000 remained without power Wednesday morning. “You overpromised and under delivered,” council member Matt Schellenberg told JEA CEO Paul McElroy during a wide-ranging update on the impacts Hurricane Matthew had to the city. Schellenberg represents Mandarin, one of the harder-hit areas due to downed trees.

Officials look to rebuild Flagler County section of A1A washed out by Hurricane Matthew” via The Associated Press – Officials with Flagler County, the city of Flagler Beach and the state’s transportation agency talked earlier in the week and agreed to meet Thursday to discuss possible solutions. Since Matthew skirted the state last week, motorists have been detoured to nearby residential streets. County Administrator Craig Coffey says A1A is damaged in other locations. In addition, he says the county is fighting breaches in the dunes in several locations that allow the Atlantic Ocean to flow toward the road and nearby canals. The county remains in a coastal flood warning due to extra-high tides and offshore conditions.

Hurricane Matthew creates mounds of trash, debris to collect in St. Johns County and cities” via Sheldon Gardner of the St. Augustine Record – Over the weekend, people returned home and began piling tree limbs and damaged property on their lawns. Crews working for or on behalf of St. Johns County, St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach have been clearing storm debris and getting solid waste and recycling services back to normal. “It’s going to probably take a month to six weeks to pick up all the debris from the storm,” said Martha Graham, St. Augustine public works director. The city also brought in a contractor to help with debris pickup and asked for backup garbage trucks. “We know the city’s hurting. We’re very sorry. … The public works department is working round the clock,” Graham said. Graham urged people to park away from roads so debris trucks can easily maneuver the city. The city is also asking people not to put garbage in recycling containers and also to keep yard debris and garbage separate. Also, people can put appliances at curbside for pickup, but the city is asking that those appliances be free of food and other items. The storm left about an estimated 70,000 cubic yards of just vegetative storm debris to be collected, said Greg Caldwell, interim engineering manager for the county’s public works department. That debris includes things like tree limbs and leaves. The county has brought in contractors for debris clearing and believes the cost of removing that storm debris will be about $1.7 million, Caldwell said.

tiny-martiniSt. Augustine residents use social media to organize local relief efforts” via Jake Martin of the St. Augustine Record – Some people aren’t waiting for the official ways of helping others and have taken to social media to organize and mobilize local relief and recovery efforts after Hurricane Matthew. A public group on Facebook called Saint Augustine Hurricane Recovery had about 10,500 members … Posts indicate many community members have adopted a grassroots mentality in pairing up those in need with those who can do something about it. “St. Augustine Strong” appears to have upgraded from hashtag to battle cry. “This page will be to help coordinating who needs help and who can help,” the group’s description says. “Teamwork makes the dream work! We will do this!” Posts are a combination of emotional and informative. People come with questions to which others have already found the answers the hard way. Some solicit help while others offer it. A few are creating artwork, T-shirts and decals to sell and raise funds for rebuilding efforts. Some people have clothes, household items and other essentials available to donate. People on their way to the store to load up on supplies ask others if they’re running low on anything. Hot meals are looking for empty stomachs. One post was even seeking advice on how to improvise a wedding that was scheduled in St. Augustine for later this week, generating a sizable and sympathetic response. Others have taken a moment to express their pleasure with how the community has come together in the hurricane’s wake.

St. Johns County student-athletes at forefront of Hurricane Matthew cleanup” via Will Brown of the St. Augustine Record – The dozens of local students who rallied to help their neighbors did not do so with the hope of future mercies, attention or volunteer hours. They did so because it was the right thing to do. From Davis Shores and Anastasia Island in the south, Orangedale to the west and Ponte Vedra Beach in the north, scores of high school athletes from St. Johns County used the unplanned sojourn from school as an opportunity to help their neighbors clean up after Hurricane Matthew swept through late last week. “It was pretty fun actually,” reported Jacob Camp. “I really enjoyed helping everyone. We went to St. Augustine. I didn’t think of the stamina; I didn’t think of the work going in. I was going in to help people. I felt really, really bad. … One guy had surgery on his shoulders and I saw him raking tree limbs in his yard. We got to help him out and it felt good to help.”

FEMA evaluates hurricane damage in Putnam County” via Heather Lee of News 4 Jax – As FEMA toured the county, residents continued cleanup efforts along the St. Johns River and Dunns Creek where the damage is extensive. In area of County Road 13, docks were demolished, boats were stranded in lifts and trees were knocked down, two of which fell on a home. Hervey Sorell has been helping clean up his mother’s home, but he said the flooding hasn’t made it easy. “It was like a war zone over here,” Sorell said. Sorell said his mother’s mobile home had water up to the steps after Hurricane Matthew caused about a 3-foot surge from Dunns Creek. And while the water began to recede Sunday, it started coming back up. “Height wise, it’s usually a couple feet lower,” Sorell said. “There is a dock over there, and you can’t even see the dock.” He said they’re hoping the area can dry out soon so they can start getting more work done.

***Southern Strategy Group is Florida’s powerhouse lobbying firm with a dedicated Jacksonville office, as well as locations in Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Tallahassee. Our nearly 25 lobbyists work daily to get our clients and their issues in front of key local and state elected officials. Whether in City Hall, the State Capitol or somewhere in between, we’ll work with you to create and execute a strategy that moves your agenda from the starting point through the finish line. Every industry. Every interest. Powerful advocacy begins here. Call us today at 904-425-8765 or visit www.sostrategy.com to learn more.***

Cloud of pension debt over city’s future has been lifted thanks to Lenny Curry’s leadership” via the Florida Times-Union editorial board – Thanks to the superb leadership of Mayor Curry and his team, the city now has an answer for its huge unfunded pension debt. Make no mistake, the failure to resolve this pension debt would have held back the city’s quality of life. No, the city wasn’t about to become Detroit, but we were on the same path. The debt is so huge that some citizens even suggested that the city declare bankruptcy. Therefore, the mayor’s warnings were right on the mark. Eight years had passed since Florida TaxWatch blew the whistle on the dangerously unfunded liability in Jacksonville. Attempts were made by two previous mayors to resolve the issue and, for various reasons, neither passed. Meanwhile, the debt grew and solutions became more difficult. Think about where we were three years ago. Jacksonville’s city budget was being smothered by ever-increasing annual payments on the unfunded liability for public-employee pensions. Then-Mayor Alvin Brown’s administration colluded with the Police and Fire Pension Fund and the unions to hold secret negotiations out of town, under the guise of a meaningless federal lawsuit.

City debit cards reported missing were in a safe all along” via David Chapman of the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record – The mystery of the missing debit cards has been solved. A year after Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration reported $27,000 worth of city-funded prepaid debit cards for an employee reward program were missing, the Office of Inspector General … revealed the cards were in a city safe the entire time. A report issued by the office said it was a lack of oversight relating to the purchase and retention of the 975 cards by former Mayor Alvin Brown’s administration that led to the confusion. Brown’s office bought $35,000 worth of cards in $25, $50 and $100 denominations in 2013 and another $25,000 in 2015. In all, 975 debit cards were bought, but there were no records for the time of the purchase or tracking thereafter while they stayed in a city safe. Employee Services provided records for when cards were pulled to disperse to employees who earned the rewards under the program started by former Mayor John Delaney.

Happening FridayCivic roundtable luncheon with E. Denise Lee – From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Jacksonville Riverfront, 201 Riverplace Blvd. In Jacksonville.

Happening Monday:: The Duval County Democratic Executive Committee holds its general meeting Monday, Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Hall, 966 N. Liberty St. in Jacksonville. For more information, contact Bobby Nord at [email protected].

Glo Smith, Al Lawson clash in chippy congressional debate” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Both Smith and Lawson faced issues coming into the debate. Smith has not been a particularly energetic fundraiser. Lawson, though he won the primary, has yet to get real buy-in from Jacksonville Democrats. That said, Lawson is known among those Jacksonville residents who are familiar with Tallahassee. Rep. Charles McBurney, who was at the debate, has known of Lawson for years. Of course, McBurney is a Republican. Fireworks were not expected going in. Even when Smith and Lawson were aiming at Corrine Brown, who lost the primary to Lawson, the two stuck to issues and “clean” campaigning. However, the debate heated up quickly enough. In doing so, it revealed serious policy deficiencies among both candidates, which augur poorly for either of them going to Washington and hitting the ground running. The debate didn’t draw media interest, aside from someone from Baker County filming the event. Perhaps that was because of a general feeling that the race was decided in August. Perhaps hurricane coverage sapped the resources of local media outlets. Smith and Lawson led off with anodyne opening statements, then outlined policy priorities. For Smith, job creation, military affairs and education topped the list; for Lawson, jobs, education and the environment.

Spotted – At CD 5 debateDuval Republican Party Chair Cindy Graves, Jacksonville City Councilman Sam Newby, former Councilman Bill Bishop and wife Melody Bishop, state Rep. Charles McBurney.

Travis Hutson’s re-election ad is all about family” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Hutson, running a campaign against a lightly funded Democrat, probably doesn’t need a television ad this cycle. But he’s got one anyway. Hutson’s ad introduces viewers to his family: his wife, two kids and his dog, Tia. “They remind me every day why the future is worth fighting for,” Hutson said, before the ad leaves the idyllic scene of the Hutson family kitchen for other idyllic scenes outside the family compound. Describing “schools that work” and “jobs that secure us,” Hutson tells SD 7 viewers that this “isn’t about [his] family” … “It’s about yours. We’re in this together. And there’s nothing I won’t do to keep it that way,” Hutson says, as the ad closes with an extended shot of a community park where delighted, clean children play on new equipment.

New Jay Fant ad takes on ‘Washington’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – House District 15 Rep. Fant, running against a write-in candidate in the Westside Jacksonville district where his family is iconic, spent almost $10,000 on production of a TV spot in late September. What did Fant get for that? A well-produced plate of red meat. The title of the ad is “November” and the premise: the biggest problems people in HD 15 face come from “Washington.” The spot contains everything you’d expect from a Northeast Florida Republican: shots of Fant walking through industrial spaces where American flags are displayed, along with images of Fant talking to military veterans and shaking hands with restaurant patrons. Fant’s voice-over is laid over a piano track, in which he says things like “two years ago, you elected me [to be] our state representative, to defend our values and create jobs” … “Right now,” Fant adds, “the biggest challenge faced by our small businesses is Washington.”


Addressing price transparency in Florida health care” via Allison Wyman of Florida TaxWatch – Thanks to the leadership of state Rep. Chris Sprowls and state Sen. Rob Bradley, Florida health care will have greater transparency particularly with the creation of an all-payer claims database. Soon Florida consumers will have access to an easy to use website with real-time pricing and information exchange. Clear pricing information would allow consumers to comparison shop before engaging providers, resulting in the opportunity to reduce their individual health care costs and better budget for health care expenditures. Presumably, publicly available pricing would encourage competition between providers, forcing them to look for opportunities to remain viable in a more open market. So why isn’t everyone demanding to know the cost of their colonoscopy?  For one reason, health care is complex and states have struggled with reporting information in a user-friendly, understandable fashion. In addition, quality of care is of paramount importance, no one wants to be thrifty at the expense of their health!  Thus, useful data must incorporate quality and price into a user-friendly, easy to interpret matrix for consumer consumption.

Analysts favorable on CSX ahead of third quarter earnings” via Jensen Werley of the Jacksonville Business Journal – As the year is winding down and CSX Corp. heads into the final stretch of 2016, analysts and experts are expecting the Jacksonville-based railroad to be in-line with its high-single-digit volume declines it advised mid-quarter. But CSX is still seen as favorable. “They basically have an operating plan that is extremely lean,” said James Mourafetis, a senior vice president at Argo Consulting, a railroad consulting group that has worked with CSX in the past. Edward Jones Analyst Logan Purk rated the company as one to buy. “In our view, CSX remains well positioned to benefit from future industry growth drivers, namely the continued growth within intermodal,” he wrote in his research note. “CSX’s renewed focus on efficiency across the business and rail network has improved substantially over time, and should continue. “

It’s Tampa versus Jax in AT&T It Can Wait Pledge” – AT&T is asking Tampa Bay and Jacksonville drivers to join the fight to stop distracted driving. From Oct. 14 to Nov. 7, Tampa is competing against Jacksonville to see which region can submit the most pledges to not drive distracted. The Tampa versus Jacksonville It Can Wait Pledge Challenge is challenging drivers to put down their smartphones while driving for 21 consecutive days. Drivers can pledge by texting “ICWTampa” to 50555 from Oct. 14 to Nov. 7. AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign shares a simple message: Keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone. Since AT&T first launched the It Can Wait campaign, the company helped inspire more than 11 million pledges by individuals to not drive distracted. AT&T aims to garner 16 million pledges to stop smartphone distracted driving by the end of 2016. Why 21 days? Experts say it takes at least 21 days to make or break a habit. AT&T hopes that through the 21-Day Challenge drivers who participate will make safe driving a lifelong practice.

UF health rehabilitation services: helping patients live life to the fullest, one session at a timeMore information here – When everyday tasks become difficult, walking becomes a challenge and falls become more frequent, it’s hard to live life to the fullest. That’s why UF Health Rehabilitation – Jacksonville works hard to improve the quality of life for patients. Over the past year, the department has upgraded and expanded its facility to offer the best care possible. UF Health Rehabilitation comprises of physical, speech and occupational therapists. “We work together,” said Jeanne Bradshaw, director. “People who have had devastating health issues like a stroke, a head injury or a severe trauma injury, many times will need all three of our services.” As part of the expansion, the department renovated its existing space on 8th Street and added new balance exercise equipment for neurologic patients. As part of a Level I trauma center, the facility sees a lot of severe neurologic injuries. “Those are some of the most life-changing injuries that need a lot of rehab,” Bradshaw said. “The quality of rehab makes a huge difference in the patient’s outcome.”



Blake Bortles a no-show so far this year” via Gary Shelton – This was the year that Blake Bortles was going to emerge.

So far, no show.

Bortles, the quarterback for the Jacksonville Jags, is 34th in the 32-team league in quarterback rating, and he’s fifth in interceptions. He hasn’t made nearly as many big plays as you might expect. He’s tied for seventh in sacks.

“We believe it is a matter of time,” said offensive coordinator Greg Olson. “There are some very good things that he has done to this point. The explosive plays are the things we haven’t [had] as an offensive unit. That is not all on Blake Bortles, but being able to capitalize on some of the things we are seeing defensively and capture some of those explosive plays is an important part of moving forward.”

Olson didn’t seem concerned with Bortles’ turnovers.

“I believe there’s a lot of things that go into that,” Olson said. “There’s certainly the turnovers he’s aware of, we’re aware of. Some of them have been tipped balls and not necessarily on decision making though and so he’s aware of that. I think he did a fantastic job last week. I think we all saw he did a better job. I think the instincts in the pocket, taking off and running and being the athlete that he is. He knows that’s part of his game and we don’t want to take that away from him, certainly you want to see him progress as a passer, but we never want to take away the instincts for him to run the ball and I thought he did a better job of that last week. He was very, very efficient last week.”

The big plays, Olson said, are coming.

“Part of it is in design of what we’re doing and we’ve seen some things here obviously, some different coverages in terms of ARob (Allen Robinson) which is fine because we have some other guys certainly that can make some big plays for us,” Olson said. “But we’ll continue to look at different ways given the flexibility when the play is there and presents itself to get into the play or to get out of the play if the big play is called, and be efficient that way and taking us out of the play and getting us possibly into a run-play or what he’s done a good job is checking the ball if it’s not there.”

The Jags visit Chicago Sunday.

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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