Jacksonville Bold for 11.30.16 — Will Jax liberals botch the HRO push again?

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Almost a year ago, Jacksonville City Councilmembers Tommy Hazouri and Bill Gulliford introduced bills related to expanding Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance to cover the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Hazouri’s bill included “sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression” in the current ordinance as protected categories.

Gulliford sought a referendum on the topic … which, if the debacle in Houston with its own equal rights ordinance is any indication, could not be won.

After weeks of the HRO being national news, with even a journalist from The New York Times making her way to Cowford to cover the drama, Hazouri quietly withdrew his bill.

The reasons were myriad. People, Hazouri said in a statement, still had “sincere questions” about what HRO expansion would mean. There was a feeling that the bill was “not ready for prime time” as written.

But there was another pragmatic factor: the votes weren’t there. Maybe a half-dozen, maybe one or two more backed the fully-inclusive HRO, which ensured protections for transgender and intersex people in Jacksonville.

On a 19-person Council, that simply wouldn’t get it done.

There were also factors mitigating against the drama of the HRO taking center stage, in the form of the August pension reform referendum, and (to a lesser extent) the slots referendum on the November ballot.

At this point, the referendums have come and gone. Yet the issue of HRO expansion is still unresolved. And proponents are ready to make another try.

The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality plans a “day of action” Saturday, which includes “knocking on doors … in key neighborhoods … and making calls to supporters of an updated HRO and encouraging them to make their voices heard at City Hall.”

Also all about that action: members of the Jax Chamber, such as chairwoman Audrey Moran, who offered a quote to the Florida Times-Union that will likely be thrown back at her by at least one council member with a sense of irony (prediction: Bill Gulliford) once the HRO debate resumes.

Supporters, Moran said, “are the guys that write the checks. They need to be sitting in the front at city council and looking at these people they helped get elected saying, ‘I’m here, because I’m watching.’”

Of course, proponents wrote the checks for the 2011 campaign, which led to a 2012 failure for the bill, and the 2015 campaign, which led to 2016’s retreat by Hazouri — who felt sandbagged by the lack of support from people who, like him, had represented themselves as supporters of HRO expansion during the campaign.

A question to ponder: is the HRO any better positioned to succeed than it was a year ago?

The answer may be no.

Those counting votes in these matters can see 6-7 “yes” votes, 6-7 hard “no” votes, and a middle bloc that would vote yes, but they aren’t quite “there” yet on transgender rights.

Will any of the no votes be flipped to yes by discussion, which will include loud and politically-mobilized opponents from their districts? Probably not.

Meanwhile, the “call me maybe” crowd is as likely to object to “the language in the bill” (which likely will include a provision that the HRO is not a justification for a man to go into a woman’s restroom for prurient purposes) as anything else.

Another factor worth watching: Melania Trump.

Why’s that? Because there will be those who will bring up the example of a designer refusing to design gowns for her as justification for a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker refusing service to someone on gender politics grounds.

The argument will be thus: why can a designer refuse service based on a client’s spouse’s political positions, but small business people can’t decide who to hire or fire, rent to or evict, serve or not serve, based on their own moral criteria?

That, combined with the backlash against PC language/thought represented by Trump, may embolden opponents.

Of course, there is one Hail Mary the pro-HRO forces could pull.

Simply put: they need to let superlobbyist Paul Harden carry the water for the bill, being the sole point man to pitch the Council.

Our understanding is that HRO proponents have divided up the Council based on who they intend to lobby, but the most effective lobbyist in the city is part of an ensemble cast rather than the star.

That needs to change.

Harden does not lose with this Council. No matter what he’s pushing, he gets it through, and usually does most of the heavy lifting under the radar.

He’s not giving reckless “vote this way because these folks write the checks” quotes.

He’s how business gets done in this city.

And if the business community is serious about getting the HRO over the goal line, they need to give the ball to their bell cow back, rather than to a bunch of ancillary people who are better at filling appointment calendars than whipping yes votes.

***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.***

National politics, political legacies and Jacksonville pension reform via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Steve Zona, the head of the Jacksonville branch of the Fraternal Order of Police, got some backup over the holiday weekend from leaders of the state and national FOP in the biggest debate his union has had in some time. They conveyed a clear message: the FOP has support in what looks to be a protracted period of collective bargaining with the city of Jacksonville. “President Zona, thanks for filling me in on the details of your pension issue, I agree it is an issue of national concern and the 325,000 members stand with our Brothers and Sisters in Jacksonville,” wrote Jay McDonald, National FOP vice president on Zona’s Facebook page. State FOP President Robert Jenkins, meanwhile, offered a similar message of support. What this all means: perhaps for the first time in the Lenny Curry administration (unless one wants to count the professional opponents and proponents of expansion of the Human Rights Ordinance who came to Jacksonville earlier in 2015), the Republican mayor is going to face national pressure to cave on his unprecedented plan to move all newly hired Jacksonville city employees to defined contribution plans.

Local legislators plan meetings WednesdayThursday” via Tia Mitchell of Florida Times-Union – The Duval County delegation will hold its annual public input meeting Wednesday. The following day the First Coast Legislative Delegation, which includes members representing the five-county area, will host a summit at Jacksonville University. Sen. Travis Hutson … is organizing the summit, a first for the 16-member regional delegation. He said the goal is to help newly elected legislators understand the industries and professions that drive the local economy. “I want to get their mind in the perspective of understanding the region and different sectors as it relates to past, present and future goals,” Hutson said. The summit will be held Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at JU’s Public Policy Institute and is open to the public. Lawmakers will hear from local experts on the topics of transportation, education and health care. The Duval Delegation’s public hearing is Wednesday from 1 to 5 p.m. at Jacksonville’s City Hall in the Council Chambers. The mayor, sheriff, schools superintendent and University of Florida Health Jacksonville executives are usually given the first speaking slots, but the list will likely include representatives from nonprofit agencies, independent authorities and businesses that rely on state contracts and dollars.

Spotted: HD 13 Rep. Tracie Davis with Ali Korman Shelton and Jessica Baker in Chamblin’s Uptown discussing legislative agenda.

Duval Dems hope to escape the wilderness” via Nate Monroe of Florida Times-Union — For the first time in the modern political era, the city’s interests in Washington, D.C., will be represented by a politician from Tallahassee. State Rep. Reggie Fullwood’s career ended after his guilty pleas to federal wire fraud and tax charges. He was once considered a rising star in the local party. Of course, there’s Hillary Clinton’s national loss to President-elect Donald Trump. Her failure to win Florida is a particularly bitter pill for Democrats. Meanwhile, [LennyCurry has built a political machine in Jacksonville, coalescing the city’s right-leaning donor class into a monetary firewall for his political ambitions and mayoral priorities. And there is a stacked bench of relatively young and promising Republicans who hold elected office or have high-profile private positions in the city. Will the Duval Democrats ever escape the wilderness? The local party’s executive committee holds elections Dec. 5 to select its next group of leaders, men and women who will have to navigate the organization through perhaps its most challenging time in recent memory. The likely front-runner for the Duval Democratic Party chair is state Sen. Audrey Gibson, a longtime Jacksonville politician and paralegal who has also represented the city in the state House. “I believe we are well-poised to help elect a Democrat Governor and other local and state officials and we must immediately lay the foundation to make it happen,” she wrote to the party’s executive committee in announcing her candidacy.

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Bold City Brewery to open downtown in January via David Chapman of Jax Daily Record – Susan Miller hoped the shotgun-style Downtown brewery would open by August or September. But, as she describes it, “old building issues” cropped up in the space adjoining the under-construction Cowford Chophouse. There was a support beam eaten by termites, a wall that needed to be expanded and a white tin roof the owners wanted to keep. On Tuesday — just like every Tuesday the past several months — Miller and her son, Brian, checked on the progress for what will soon be Bold City Downtown, an offshoot of the popular Bold City Brewery in Riverside. “It’s going to happen,” said Susan Miller, who owns the brewery with Brian. “It’s going to be well worth it.” Brian Miller said he can now see the business starting to take shape. Bathrooms in the back of the slender space are framed out and he can envision where the bar, cold storage and brewing are going. Fans should be able to see a finished product soon for themselves. Susan Miller said she anticipates opening in mid-December or early January. And when Bold City does open, it will knock off a few long-awaited benchmarks — “three birds with one stone,” as Brian Miller describes.

CBD Dispensary opens in Orange Park via Jesse Hollett of Clay Today – The business building at 418 Kingsley Avenue is home to a beauty salon, a jewelry store, a tech shop, and, as of Nov. 17, the Town of Orange Park’s first CBD Dispensary. CBD oil, otherwise known as Cannabidiol, has been legal since the ‘Charlotte’s Web’ bill passed in 2014. But the 400-square-foot room inside of a shared office space overlooking Town Hall Park is the first the town has seen of the medicine. Oils, vapors and edibles made with the medicine originate from strains of marijuana that are high in CBD, but low in the ‘high’ producing compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The compound has no psychoactive properties, meaning users only receive medicinal benefits, not the euphoric high of marijuana. CBD oil can also come from hemp. “I’m here to help the people and it’s been a long time since the product has been out and no one carries it,” said Harry Satur, who owns the dispensary. “I thought it would be a really good idea to help out the community for people suffering with dancer and stuff like that.” The store sells a variety of products to facilitate the usage of the medicine, as well. Users can ingest the medicine with chocolate shipped from Denver, Colorado – equivalent to a day’s dose, and vape the product using electronic cigarettes. The store also sells the more traditional CBD hemp oils ranging in dosage level from 200 milligrams to 5,000 milligrams. Patients can help alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy, post-traumatic stress syndrome and multiple sclerosis – among other diseases. “It’s a new thing here and hopefully it will take off,” Satur said. “We’ve had several customers already. They’re very happy that we opened up.”

JEA excited about bond rating meetings” via Max Marbut of Jax Daily Record – “The December credit rating meetings are going to be a lot of fun,” said JEA Chief Financial Officer Melissa Dykes at the Nov. 15 board of directors meeting. She had just reported the publicly owned utility in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 had outperformed financial projections across the board, including its sales, cash on hand and debt-to-asset ratio. Dykes also reported JEA is in its “highest debt service position in the past five years.” In addition, the board approved a five-year base rate stabilization policy that includes retiring early nearly $200 million in debt. Those will be important factors when a delegation from JEA goes to New York City Dec. 8-9 for the annual presentations to the Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s rating agencies. The meetings will establish — and hopefully maintain — JEA’s AA and AAA ratings for its electric and water/sewer system senior and subordinated bonds. Last year when the group presented to the credit agencies, the board had five new members out of seven, the city pension dilemma hadn’t been resolved and City Council was still considering a new five-year interlocal agreement that would set JEA’s annual contribution to the general fund budget.

Gold Club suffers fire, displacing exotic dancers via Action News Jax – Sixty firefighters worked to put out a fire that caused major damage at a Jacksonville gentlemen’s club Saturday morning. Robert Glaesel said he called 911 after he saw heavy smoke coming from Gold Club on Atlantic Boulevard in Arlington. “I could see some flames out of the back of the building. Some of the trees next to it were on fire,” Glaesel, who works nearby, said.

Clay County farmers, ranchers hear the buzz about honeybees” via Teresa Stepzinski of the Florida Times-Union – The 44th annual Farm-City Luncheon … Hosted by the Clay County Extension Office of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences the event celebrated National Farm-City Week, which was Nov. 16 through Thanksgiving Day. “Farm-City Week is a time to give thanks for the beneficial partnerships between urban and rural residents and that’s what we have here today,” Brad Burbaugh, director of the Clay County Extension Office, told the gathering of about 150 people. Florida farmers and ranchers work hard to produce over 300 crops on a commercial scale. Just in Clay County there are more than 400 farms. At least 30 percent of the land countywide is in agricultural production, he said. “The diversity of our agriculture is rich but they know it takes many other partnerships to get that crop from the farm to the table. There are partnerships with grocers, truck drivers, processors, scientists, consumers and many others all playing an important role in getting the food from the farms to the table as I said,” Burbaugh noted … Bees, one of the most vital agriculture partners, might not have had an actual seat at the luncheon tables but their presence was felt because none of the meal — ham, green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls, banana pudding and tea — would be possible without them, according to the keynote speaker, Rob Horsburgh, an agriculture protection specialist with the Apiary Inspection Section of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Tad Delegal named 2017 Jacksonville Employment Lawyer of the Year — The veteran attorney was selected by his peers in Northeast Florida for the distinction. “As much as the legal community represents a diversity of clients and positions, it is an honor to be selected and recognized,” said Delegal. “Our first clients were police officers and public servants who working under strict codes of conduct and high standards. “Protecting careers is almost a sacred calling for me. Our kids, families and businesses rely on professionals whether they’re a wage earner or a person providing health, financial, legal or personal services.” Labor and employment specialists frequently handle contracts, noncompete agreements, severance agreements and professional licensure issues. Delegal has been a lawyer for 25 years, and his firm has served the community since 1996. Delegal will serve as president of the Jacksonville Bar Association in 2017.

Rest in peace –Jax Chamber’s Callie Crump dies in weekend car crash” via Ethan Callaway and Destiny McKeiver of News 4 Jax – An employee of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce was among two people killed in two separate crashes Friday afternoon on Interstate 10 on Jacksonville’s Westside. Crump, 36, died after her vehicle was rear-ended by 47-year-old Wanda Jones on I-10 eastbound at U.S. Highway 301 in Baldwin …  Crump was stopped in traffic at the time. The impact killed Crump and caused her to crash into 77-year-old Rodolfo Macadangdang’s Jeep Patriot, which in turn, crashed into 32-year-old Vironshay Walker’s Chevrolet Malibu. When Jones crashed in Crump, her Expedition flipped over Crump and Macadangdang’s vehicles and rested on top of Walker’s Malibu. Jones and her four passengers, Raven Morgan, 22, Daron Jones, 10, Santana Pena, 2, and infant boy Savalasi Pena were all seriously injured. Macadangdang was seriously injured in the crash. His passenger was uninjured. Walker and her three passengers were uninjured in the crash. Crump was an office coordinator at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. It released the following statement in the wake of her death: “Callie’s smiling face was the first thing our members and visitors saw when they walked into the JAX Chamber building. Her warm, friendly demeanor characterized her life and she will be sorely missed. She genuinely cared about people.”

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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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