Jacksonville Bold for 6.28.19 — School tax schmozz

jacksonville city hall2
Curry had a smooth ride to reelection. But every second term has its issues. And this is Curry’s first.

A new Jacksonville City Council is installed. The Mayor and Sheriff have been reinstalled.

But as opposed to previous transition periods, this is no honeymoon. The streets are roiled over a matter left for the new Council: should the School Board get its tax referendum? And if so, when?

2020 looks like the move after a motion to discharge the Council bill authorizing a vote out of committee failed.

“It seems [the referendum is] in a holding pattern,” board chair Lori Hershey told the Florida Times-Union.

“I recognize that they also have the authority to change the date. The question is ‘when will they put it on the ballot?'”

Hershey added that “while I recognize that we’re a consolidated government, it does not negate the role of the School Board as an elected body. State statute does dictate the role to let the community decide.”

Mayor Lenny Curry wants 2020 and a more fleshed out plan with more assurances for charters. The donor class is playing all sides, with John Rood (!!) showing at a Monday rally for a referendum this year.

The second term starts with box office poison in the form of a school tax schmozz.

UNF’s poll had Curry at +9. While people in his circle scoff at the methodology, there are signs that the Mayor, in the next couple of weeks, needs to find a way to work with the school board and charters.

The strong mayor model requires building a consensus on issues, including issues that might not be your own.

Curry had a smooth ride to reelection. But every second term has its issues.

And this is Curry’s first.

Whether the Mayor wants to bother with another run for office or not, extended sparring with the school board chair is bad optics. He’s got to bring a plan acceptable to all stakeholders in for a Landing.

And no. In this case, demolition won’t work.

Puppy love

More positive press for U.S. Rep. John Rutherford via the St. Augustine Record.

John Rutherford wants to connect service animals with former service members. Image via the St. Augustine Record.

If U.S. Congressman John Rutherford has his way, every former military service member will be given the option of receiving a companion dog to help deal with PTSD.”

The reference is to the PAWs (Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers) Act. Rutherford’s bill would offer vouchers for vets via Veterans Affairs.

Dogs would be procured from organizations like K9s for Warriors, though that group’s founder (Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond) envisions other groups joining his in this vital service.

U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz also supports the bill.

Florida Politics will track this legislation as it proceeds.

Hutson’s big day

A serious legislative priority for Sen. Travis Hutson was signed into law Monday.

HB 7071 includes a requirement that a financial literacy course is offered in all Florida school districts starting next school year.

Hutson, who has prioritized this financial education component, lauded the bill as the “most transformational thing we have done since Jeb Bush was Governor.

Sen. Travis Hutson gets a key legislative priority signed into law.

“Ensuring each and every student across our state has access to opportunity — regardless of their chosen path — is a giant step toward unlocking the American dream for so many more Floridians,” Hutson said. “Thanks to Gov. DeSantis’ leadership, I believe these advances are just the beginning of fully empowering our students to succeed.”

“By investing in workforce education and apprenticeship programs, our students will have new opportunities and career paths,” said DeSantis. “In signing this bill, we are ensuring that Florida continues to build upon its economic momentum and future workforce by investing in the next generation.”

“In addition to the financial literacy requirement, the bill also establishes guidelines for apprenticeships, including ways to supplement on the job training through occupational course and online education.”

The bill also allows for an alternative pathway to a high school diploma through the Career and Technical Education pathway system.

Storybook ending

No drag queens will be at the Jacksonville Public Library, at least not during officially sanctioned events.

The Storybook Pride Prom, which featured a drag queen reading stories to underage patrons, is off.

It’s not a storybook ending for drag queens in the latest storytime kerfuffle.

JPL leadership had safety concerns, especially in light of a pressure campaign from people who did not want the event at the Willow Branch library in Riverside (the most historically gay-friendly area of town).

Newsweek, which did an aggregation piece about the event, gave some national ink to Biblical Concepts Ministries, consultant Raymond Johnson’s group. The national outlet credited a pressure campaign of BCM’s as being key to this push.

For Jacksonville, a city struggling to grow and define itself against the context of three more cosmopolitan major cities in the southern part of the state, this is the kind of publicity that hurts the city as it tries, perpetually, to up its status.

But for the religious right, this was a big win.

Turf war

WJXT is the friendliest of all local news operations to the Mayor, so it was surprising to see them feature an article satirizing the impending Jacksonville Landing teardown.

Mono no aware, indeed. Image via WJXT/Modern Cities.

“10 grass fields to get you pumped for Landing demolition,” via J.D. McGregor of Modern Cities, explores the possibility that even after spending $18 million to get the space back and millions more for incidentals, the end result may be just another grass field.

“What can we expect to see once Mayor Lenny Curry completes his $22 million plan to demolish the Jacksonville Landing? Here’s ModernCities.com’s look at 10 city-owned fields in the Downtown area showing off exactly what we’re getting! #JaxOnTheRise,” McGregor jokes.

Here’s a Forsyth Street parcel …

“LOVE that view! What other downtown can boast a field that overlooks another field that cars park on? If you look closely, you’ll see that the city has done a marvelous job maintaining the site’s many ecological areas, which include everything from grass to dead grass to bare patches of dirty sand. We can only hope the Landing looks this good when the city’s done with it!”

Time to change

A bill mandating baby changing tables in men’s rooms in new and substantially renovated public places passed the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday.

But not without some critique.

“Government overreach,” said outgoing Republican Matt Schellenberg in opposition.

Time for a change.

Outgoing Democrat John Crescimbeni noted that a lot of babies are born in Duval County, and men shouldn’t have to squat in bathrooms to change diapers.

Crescimbeni also lauded the makers of Pampers for a promotional campaign for changing tables, noting that John Legend was part of the campaign.

“Dads have a real struggle changing their infants in public places,” Crescimbeni mused.

A technical amendment will follow to bring this into accord with the Florida Building Code.

As well, another bill is pending for “adult changing stations,” Crescimbeni said.

The bill passed 17-2.

This bill has done better than attempts at similar legislation on the state level.

Sen. Lauren Book has not been able to get a committee hearing for her bills to mandate changing areas in certain new construction facilities.

New committees

Scott Wilson becomes President of the Jacksonville City Council next week, and his standing committees offer an insight into his vision.

The Finance Committee will be friendly to the priorities of the Mayor’s Office.

As Scott Wilson takes the reins as President of the Jacksonville City Council, some glimpse into his vision.

A quorum of Tim Baker clients will join Chairman Aaron Bowman.

Council newcomers LeAnna Cumber, Randy DeFoor, and Ron Salem as well as elected former appointee Terrance Freeman. Democrat and Council VP Tommy Hazouri endorsed Curry for reelection.

Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman, though not part of the Curry machine, was appointed initially (as was Freeman) to the Council by Gov. Rick Scott.

While Finance jibes with the Mayor’s wish list, Rules may be a different matter.

Anonymous hit

Folio Weekly reports that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is looking into Clay Sheriff Darryl Daniels … and Daniels, per the alt-weekly, isn’t handling things well.

The FDLE is looking into Sheriff Darryl Daniels, and he’s not handling it well.

“At a June 14 patrol briefing, however, Daniels appeared ‘unhinged’ with paranoia. Attendees said the sheriff punctuated the meeting with numerous obscenities, shouting that if he found out who’d been leaking information, he would ‘kill the motherf*cker!’ Sources report Daniels ranted on, declaring that one day they’d be putting him in jail ‘for beating up people when I’m not sheriff.’”

Folio received a copy of an anonymous complaint to Gov. Ron DeSantis, as well.

“We are concerned about not only the reputation of the Sheriff’s Office but also our safety,” it reads. “He is losing touch with reality and appears violent.”

The letter, purportedly from people inside the department, was unsigned and came after FDLE officers had reportedly visited the department.

DeSantis last addressed this issue in Jacksonville in May, and he said he was reviewing the situation.

Daniels was a major campaign backer of DeSantis, though the Governor notes the Sheriff backed Putnam in the primary.

One suspects that this question may be asked anew when DeSantis comes back to the region, likely to highlight the budget. If he makes a Clay County stop, or even anywhere close, media will want to know.

Mousa moves on

Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa said goodbye to the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday.

“During my 18 years on the Council, the majority of them involved Sam Mousa,” said John Crescimbeni.

“In addition to being a teacher, he’s a showman,” Crescimbeni said.

Farewell (and good luck) to Sam Mousa.

Bill Gulliford and Matt Schellenberg spoke up, while Reggie Gaffney credited Mousa with providing “solutions” in his district.

“I still need you,” Gaffney said. “I love you so much.”

Tommy Hazouri, who appointed Mousa when he was Mayor, lauded Mousa as an “engineer” who doesn’t like his desk messed up.

“You will be here … helping us. We need you,” Hazouri said.

Lori Boyer called Mousa an “incredible asset” to the city, noting she learned a lot from Mousa “in the last eight years.”

Worth noting: Mousa and Boyer worked together in these roles for only four years.

Randy White lauded Mousa for introducing him to J.B Coxwell.

“About half of what [was said] I can share, and the other half I can never share,” White said.

“I’m going to miss those sidewalk sidebar conversations with you smoking outside,” Ju’Coby Pittman said, lauding Mousa’s “swag.”

“You’ve probably pissed a lot of people off … but you always come around and try to make it right,” Pittman said.

Mousa credited Mayor Curry with the “charge.”

“He asked me to come back. It wasn’t something I thought I’d do … but I want to see the Mayor succeed,” Mousa said.

Mousa described Brian Hughes, his successor, as a “quick study” with a “great team behind him.”

“Things will proceed,” Mousa said.

Suburbia

Florida Times-Union reports JEA may not need a downtown HQ after all.

Indeed, they (in a downsizing future) may move to the burbs!

“JEA could quash its plan for a new headquarters building in downtown and move instead to the suburbs depending on what direction the JEA board takes for the utility’s strategic plan, according to a presentation made Tuesday to the board.”

The Outgoing Council liaison agrees, the TU notes.

“If they’re looking long-term beyond maybe a two- to three-year period, why do they need a new [headquarters] building if potentially they’re going to be sold,” Schellenberg said. “It would be an unnecessary expense.”

There is no public discussion of sale; however, with real revenue concerns not abating, workforce attrition a continuing concern, and other problems, the business case for pushing to privatize last year may become clearer soon enough.

Flagler Health+ announces Durbin Park project

Flagler Health+ is entering an agreement with GATE Lands, the real estate subsidiary of GATE Petroleum Company, to purchase 40 acres within the company’s Durbin Park development.

Located between I-95 and State Road 9B, the project includes several phases:

— A Flagler Health+ Village with family practice, women’s care, pediatrics, urgent care, imaging and laboratory services. Included in the health village will be a dedicated green space for lifestyle programming, arts activities and community engagement.

“As St. Johns County’s leading healthcare provider for more than 130 years, Flagler Health+ is committed to furthering a sense of connectedness and community throughout all areas of this very special region, including the northernmost sector of our county,” said President and CEO Jason Barrett in a statement. “We are focused on building meaningful, seamless relationships along the journey of life and look forward to serving the growing needs of area residents.”

Flagler Health+ announces plans for Durbin Park with a village that incorporates family practice, women’s care, pediatrics, urgent care, imaging and laboratory services.

—Phase Two will be a 40-acre health and wellness campus, which includes a hospital, outpatient surgical services and cancer care. A dedicated Durbin Park Health Advisory Council will be established to include area residents in future plans.

“We are excited that Flagler Health+ has chosen to create its Flagler Health+ Village in Durbin Park,” said Drew Frick, president of GATE Lands. “Our goal with Durbin Park is to create a distinct destination where individuals and families can live, work, shop and be entertained. The community health approach that Flagler Health+ brings to this project will further this goal by creating jobs and expanding the amenities and services available to one of the fastest growing areas in the state.”

Among those favoring the project are the St. Johns County Director of Economic Development Melissa Glasgow and St. Johns County Commissioner James Johns.

“We are thrilled to see a full-service, state-of-the-art health and wellness campus included in the plans for Durbin Park,” Glasgow said. “As one of St. Johns County’s largest employers, we are pleased that Flagler Health+ continues to invest significant resources to support our growing community and bolster our status as Florida’s Healthiest County.”

“I am supportive of this endeavor, which will employ our residents, reduce commute times for critical services, and blend well with surrounding developments,” added Johns, who represents the Durbin Park district.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2020.

No idea

News about one of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ worst first-round picks emerged this week via the local ESPN affiliate.

Former head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I had no idea we were gonna draft Blaine Gabbert.”

Should have skipped the buffet: Jack Del Rio got Gabberted in his absence.

Del Rio continued: “In fact, I left to go get something to eat because our pick wasn’t for much longer in the draft. I go, and I’m sitting there filling my plate thinking oh great, we have a couple more hours before I pick and I see the Jaguars are on the clock, and I’m like what the blank is going on.”

“He wasn’t a first-round guy,” Del Rio told ESPN690. “He wasn’t a guy to trade your draft and go up and get him. That was part of coaching. That was not part of me. That was the first indication that my time in J-Ville was running short.”

Del Rio came in pledging to change the “3 yards and a cloud of dust” offense that the decimated squad of the late Head Coach Tom Coughlin era featured.

That squad was crippled by Coughlin’s less than forward thinking management of the salary cap.

Coughlin, who had too much control, was replaced by Del Rio as head coach and Gene Smith as GM.

Did power-sharing work? Depends on how much you liked that Gabbert pick.

Analysts predict Jaguars improvement

With the minicamps completed and training camp only one month away, prognosticators are providing their guesses on how each NFL team will perform this year. If most of these guesses are right, the Jaguars will be in the running for a playoff spot when the season ends in December.

Shortly after the April draft, ESPN provided good news/bad news scenario for Jacksonville.

The good news is they project improvement to 8-8, a three-game improvement over last year’s 5-11 debacle. The bad news is they would still finish last in the AFC South Division behind the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, and Tennessee Titans.

NFL Network’s Adam Rank sees things a bit differently. He has the Jaguars bouncing back in a big way with an 11-5 record, which would be second only to the Colts’ projected 12-4 mark.

Prognosticators are giving the Jaguars a shot at improvement. 

Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport also sees an 8-8 season for the Jaguars, finishing third behind the Colts and Texans. Davenport points out there is some good news following last year’s 5-11 debacle.

“That faceplant brings with it a silver lining, however: A last-place finish means a last-place schedule,” he wrote. “The Jaguars don’t play an out-of-division road game against a team that had a winning record in 2018.

Jacksonville has the third-easiest schedule in 2019. Despite that fact, Dan Parzych of Fansided is one who is not expecting much improvement, seeing only a one-game improvement to 6-10.

“Jacksonville certainly deserves credit for some of the moves made this offseason to help bounce back after last year’s 5-11 finish,” he wrote, “but it may be another year before the Jaguars can join the playoff conversation, especially since there’s some uncertainty in the passing game.”

In the end, no one can predict the unknowns like injuries, personality problems, or other reasons that keep teams from peak performance. If the Jaguars defense approaches the way it played in 2017 and new quarterback Nick Foles gels with his new teammates and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, those predicting a competitive 2019 will be closer to being right.

Training camp begins July 22 for rookies and July 24 for veterans.

Staff Reports



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