Jacksonville Bold for 6.21.19 — Now we go to school

school taxes
“If you have opposition, it’s going to be the Night of the Walking Dead."

Before applying his signature figure-four leglock, pro wrestler Ric Flair would often holler: “Now we go to school.”

That phrase came to mind this week when legendary Lori Boyer showed why she was among the most formidable of this era’s Council members, by managing to put the brakes on Duval County considering a half-cent sales surtax in November for school capital improvements.

Lori Boyer won a committee version of a steel cage match: Image via the Jax Business Journal.

Boyer, a former Council President, attempted to get the vote deferred in the Finance Committee meeting Tuesday morning. Unsuccessful there in a 3-4 motion, she then made the same push for deferral in the Rules Committee Tuesday afternoon.

The Rules Committee has many of the best connected and wiliest politicians on the Council, and they know how the game works and what outcome floats.

Since Finance had chosen to move the referendum to 2020 anyway, Boyer contended that the new Council would be best suited for the kind of exhaustive vetting required.

Superintendent Diana Greene protested the deferral motion. Rules chair Tommy Hazouri then stated his position, which was that there had been a lack of due diligence on financial issues — and a lot of questions.

“If you have opposition, it’s going to be the Night of the Walking Dead,” Hazouri cautioned Greene.

Boyer did tax advocates a favor. She has given them time to make a case aggressively before the next Council votes.

One would strongly advise them to get a political operation together before it’s too late.

Councilman John Crescimbeni put a fine point on it: “earned media” (including persuasive pitches like that made by Nate Monroe in the Florida Times-Union) can only take you so far.

Crescimbeni, a victim of the Republican rout in city elections this year, has seen referendums win and referendums lose.

He knows, as do most honest observers, that the Jacksonville electorate responds to repetition. They need to see the ads. They need to see the political work being done.

A divided city (48/48 as Tim Baker’s poll suggests) won’t greenlight this tax.

While the University of North Florida has an online poll dropping Friday, and that likely will be more favorable, the people inside City Hall trust Baker’s polling. So don’t expect this to move until the new Council has a chance to discuss in committees.

Finance did approve the bill; however, the smart money is that they also get a re-referral. With committee assignments yet to be announced, Finance and Rules will be interesting.

Expect newcomers like Randy DeFoor, Ron Salem, LeAnna Cumber, and Rory Diamond to drive that renewed debate.

Slap unhappy

A famous slogan back in the 70s: “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.”

In 2019, at rallies for the President’s reelection, the saying should be amended to: “Please don’t slap the reporter.”

WJXT reports “The Orlando Police Department said Daniel Kestner, 51, of St. Augustine, is facing a battery charge for hitting the hand of reporter Michael Williams outside the Amway Arena.”

Daniel Kestner arrested at the Donald Trump rally in Orlando for slapping a reporter’s hand.

Kestner was one of roughly 10,000 supporters on hand.

The St. Augustine resident snapped on the reporter recording him without permission, to disable the recording device.

Kestner has since bonded out of jail.

Count every one

Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson weighed in this week, backing Democratic calls for a Governor-appointed Statewide Census Count Committee.

Florida’s fair share hinges on an accurate population count for the upcoming census,” wrote Leader Gibson in a letter sent Tuesday to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Sen. Audrey Gibson gets riled up over the 2020 Census. Image via WOKV.

“I urge you to issue an executive order creating a Census Statewide Count Committee, similar to the executive order issued under former Gov. Charlie Crist during the last census count,” Gibson added.

“We cannot risk this massive loss of funding with so many pressing infrastructure demands, water quality issues, needed capital funding for schools, and health care expenses, among other priorities, facing Florida and its growing population,” she wrote.

“I join my colleagues, Senators Victor Torres and Bobby Powell, who earlier this month requested that you issue such an order, and urge you to act as expeditiously as possible to ensure our state’s interests remain protected.

No big deal

Though there is still some gnashing of teeth regarding the demolition of the Jacksonville Landing, analysts cited in the Jax Daily Record note that the destruction of the 32-year-old riverfront mall won’t impact the city’s marketing efforts much.

Throwback postcards from the Jax Daily Record.

Michelle Guglielmo Gilliam, president of Jacksonville-based Point Taken Communications, said the building was a “great concept, and it’s worked in other cities, but for whatever reason, it didn’t work in Jacksonville.”

Downtown Vision likewise isn’t too worried.

“When we look at everything, we have five sports teams and seven theaters, the library, the museum, we have a ton of events,” she said. “Everything factors into how we market Downtown.”

Bad News Berkman

Per the Florida Times-Union, more bad news about the out-of-state would-be developers of what was the former Berkman 2.

The troubled, half-finished Berkman 2. Image via the Jax Daily Record.

“The owner of the half-finished Berkman II tower in downtown Jacksonville failed to pay its property taxes on time, resulting in an Illinois corporation purchasing a $58,000 tax certificate last month that adds another legal layer to what comes next for a building that’s blighted the skyline since 2007,” reports David Bauerlein.

Recall that “Mississippi-based Barrington Development came forward last year with a plan … by converting it into a 341-room hotel for a resort called Watermark Jacksonville with a water park, an entertainment center, a parking garage and a 200-foot tall ‘observation wheel’ soaring from the riverside.”

The city would have paid up to $36 million in incentives.

Southern Strategy Group is representing Barrington here.

Barrington Development “is aware of the issue and working to get it resolved,” said SSGs’ Matt Brockelman.

“In the meantime,” Brockelman said, “they’re continuing to show exciting progress on other major projects such as the $100 million Centennial Plaza redevelopment in Mississippi.”

“Barrington remains bullish on our city and the opportunity to redevelop the Berkman II riverfront eyesore,” Brockelman said, “and they look forward to continue working toward that goal with city and community leaders in the months ahead.”

Mandarin MedMen

Florida’s medical cannabis space continues to flourish, with Jacksonville starting to see more representation from the state’s major players.

One name to watch on the marquee: MedMen, which got approved, per Karen Mathis of the Jax Daily Record, for a build-out in Mandarin.

MedMen CEO Adam Bierman is eyeing the Sunshine State, most notably Northeast Florida. Image via Getty Images and iStock/The Real Deal.

MedMen has already begun its build-out in Five Points and also is looking to set up shop in Jax Beach. The Mandarin location is at a former Al’s Pizza on San Jose.

The company, per South Florida’s Real Deal real estate site, just got $100 million in capital for 12 Sunshine State launches

Capital and corporate structure issues have been ongoing concerns, but Med Men continues to expand aggressively as cannabis legalization efforts progress nationwide.

Off the greens

A long-term golf sponsorship is over for Jacksonville internet company Web.com, as the Jacksonville Daily Record reports.

Los Angeles-based organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry signed a 10-year agreement to replace Web, a deal which takes effect immediately

Web.com was terse in addressing the change of course.

The company was “a proud sponsor of the Tour as we focused on building our brand on a national stage,” but is “now focused on other initiatives to further grow our business.”

Web, which laid off employees this year as part of an ongoing re-org, did not play through its deal with the tour.

“Web.com, based out of Jacksonville, has been the title sponsor of the developmental circuit dating back to 2012 when it took over the moniker from Nationwide Insurance out of Ohio. That agreement was also announced in late June 2012 as a 10-year deal. Web.com did not complete the agreement, falling just shy of seven years as the Tour’s title sponsor,” added the GolfNewsNet website.

Cheap shot

Lawyers find new specialties all the time, but sometimes advertising them can be a sticky wicket.

WJXT reported this week on an Eastside billboard that alarms locals.

“For drivers exiting the Mathews Bridge and heading onto Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, it’s hard to miss “APARTMENT SHOOTINGS” plastered on a nearby billboard. The faux bullet-riddled advertisement is for Batts-Daniels Law, an Orlando-based law firm specializing in personal injury cases and criminal defense that has a satellite office here in Jacksonville,” WJXT reports.

Attorney billboards pose their own set of problems. Image via WJXT.

One local objects.

“It’s just like all the apartment shootings are happening on the Eastside, but you won’t see that billboard over in Mandarin,” she said. “You don’t even hear half of the stuff that goes on over there on the news.”

There have been multiple apartment shootings in the Eastside in recent months, however, suggesting that the advertising strategy may pay off.

Gimme the loot

The Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee discussed FEMA money from Hurricane Irma.

That seems to be a work in progress, especially since the hurricane hit two years ago.

FEMA money is still moving slowly after Irma. Florida has reviewed $3M of invoices for Jax. $57M still being negotiated with the state.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer, who will run the Downtown Investment Authority starting next month, remarked that was a “different answer than I’ve heard in other conversations.”

Lori Boyer wants to speed up FEMA Irma money.

“FEMA in DC,” Boyer said, “advised that money was sent to the state Department of Emergency Management … [which] made the decision.”

Boyer added that “what we’re concerned with is it not take 12 years to get our money like after Katrina.”

Time will tell, but this has thus far been a slow payout.

All-clear

Some good news from Florida Coastal Law School.

FSCL: In the clear.

“The Council of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar has ‘concluded that the Law School has demonstrated compliance with Standards 301(a), 309(b), and 501(b) and Interpretation 501-1’,” the school said in a media release this week.

Florida Coastal Dean Scott DeVito said, “We are grateful that the Section’s Council has recognized the hard work and dedication of Florida Coastal’s students, staff, faculty and alumni. The law school has first-in-class bar Florida first-time bar passage — outperforming five of six comparable Florida law schools in 2018 and all comparable Florida law schools in February 2019. In addition, Florida Coastal’s entering credentials, based on median LSAT, are at or above 43 other law schools.”

This may set off some synergy, says another FSCL official.

Dean of Academics Jennifer Reiber added, “Florida Coastal’s commitment to increased entering credentials, first-in-class bar passage rates, and affordability, build on our 6000+ Alumni base, including judges, elected officials, leaders of bar organizations, and law firm partners, to create a stable foundation for Florida Coastal’s future. To help cement that foundation, we are in negotiations to affiliate with a 100-year-old nonprofit university.”

The American Bar Association hammered FSCL with several charges, including insufficient bar exam prep, inadequate academic support, credible admissions policies and academic attrition.

Pride, SJC style

NBC News spotlighted the story of Drew Adams, a former student of St. Johns County schools who ended up becoming a trailblazer … for trying to use the bathroom.

Transgender trailblazer Drew Adams. Image via LambdaLegal.com.

“Not only would it be his first year of high school — it would be his first year living openly as a boy. But Adams’ excitement faded after school officials told him he couldn’t use the boy’s bathroom because he is transgender,” NBC News reported.

A district judge agreed with Adams; however, the case is in appeal, even though Adams graduated.

He will matriculate at the University of Central Florida this year, studying political science and psychology.

The school district appealed in August 2018 to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case is now pending.

Adams, now an 18-year-old senior who will graduate this month, said he hopes the case will make high school easier for students who are also trans.

New destinations for Jax airport

Allegiant Air will soon launch service between Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) and Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that the twice-weekly service will begin Friday, Oct. 4. It is the first nonstop air service from Jacksonville to Grand Rapids.

Allegiant will soon be servicing eight non-stop destinations from Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority announced flights would depart JAX at 11:14 a.m. on Mondays and Fridays, arriving at GRR at approximately 1:31 p.m.

Flights from GRR will depart at 8:15 a.m. on Mondays and Fridays, and arrive at JAX at approximately 10:29 a.m.

With the new addition, Allegiant will now serve eight cities from JAX, mostly in the Midwest.

“Nonstop service to Grand Rapids will make it easy for Midwest travelers to see all that Northeast Florida has to offer,” JAA CEO Mark VanLoh said in a statement. “It also means that our community will have direct access to one of Michigan’s most beautiful cities.”

Conley stands out

NFL analysts praised the signing of free-agent quarterback Nick Foles, but they were not convinced the Jacksonville offense would become a force. While Foles brings a lot to the table with his arm and playmaking ability, many wondered if there were enough quality hands around him to get open and catch the ball.

With minicamp now in the past and training camp coming next month, some of those analysts are reassessing the Jaguars prospects in putting points on the board. With a position formerly thought to be short on talent, the Jaguars may be developing some depth.

The Jaguars seem to be loosening the purse strings to sign former Chief Chris Conley. Image via USA TODAY.

Dede Westbrook heads the list of wide receivers on the roster, with Marqise Lee being counted upon to recover from injury and become another downfield threat for Foles. Running back Leonard Fournette is expected to become a much more significant part of the passing offense than he has in the past.

With that in mind, a newcomer is showing signs of perhaps becoming the No. 1 go-to threat in the Jaguars offense. The offseason signing of Chris Conley from Kansas City has the appearance of being a spending move by Tom Coughlin, Dave Caldwell and the front office.

Conley has been splendid during offseason OTAs and minicamp. In fact, ESPN’s NFL Nation named Conley as the “Surprise Offseason Standout” for the club.

“The Jaguars don’t have a clear No. 1 receiver, but with Marqise Lee not expected to return from a knee injury until several weeks into training camp, it could be Conley,” read the analysis from Mike DiRocco.

Foles is a former teammate of Conley’s while both were with the Chiefs. Conley is among 12 wide receivers on the roster, along with six tight ends.

A spirited competition in training camp for the wide receiver slots as well as those for a tight end. Will the Jags improve on their 26th-ranked passing offense from a year ago?

The process that will answer those questions begins in just a few weeks.

Staff Reports



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