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Jacksonville Bold for 9.12.19 — Season opener

Is it another lost season at City Hall, too?

Season opener

It was hard to watch the Jaguars this week, what with our hands covering our eyes.

The promise of a new season and big-ticket franchise quarterback ended in the first quarter. Nick Foles may be back this year; but realistically, at this point, it’s too late to matter.

From bling to sling: Big-ticket signing Nick Foles injured in the first game.

After what has been a depressing few months of power politics machinations, it turned out that professional football offered no reprieve.

Lenny Curry, as is widely known, has branded himself as the “football Mayor.” He often talks about “blocking and tackling” in the context of politics and campaigns.

However, the Jaguars’ defense (torched for 40 points at home) didn’t master the tackling. And judging from Foles on the IR, the blocking could have been better, too.

While it’s premature to say it’s another lost season, history tells us it’s at least possible.

Which brings up the question: Will there be another lost season at City Hall as well?

Procedural roadblocks typified the last few months regarding the Duval County School Board’s push for a tax referendum leading into proposals including a Mayor-appointed board and, more recently, an elected Superintendent.

Coverage of the city budget (slated for passage in two weeks) has been on the backburner. Power politics, meanwhile, is the phrase that pays.

Big launch

Jennifer Bradley is looking to take the Senate seat her termed-out husband, Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley, holds. And August fundraising shows that she may just have a shot.

Mrs. Bradley’s first month of fundraising for her campaign account saw a tidy $200,000 raised, a significant sum for a race that likely will not see Democratic opposition.

Jennifer Bradley launches her Florida Senate campaign with a major haul.

Jacksonville establishment money came to play, as did a wide array of political committees seeded by said establishment scions.

In addition to that, the Bradleys’ “Working for Florida’s Families” political committee took in an additional $130,000. That committee had $750,000 on hand, giving Bradley an advantage over nominal Libertarian competition.

Some others in the region had active fundraising also.

Sen. Travis Hutson, a St. Johns County Republican, had another month of six-figure fundraising in August.

Hutson, locked in what he says is a “cordial” race against Sen. Kathleen Passidomo for the Senate presidency, raised roughly $105,000 in soft and hard money combined.

Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican and future House Speaker, raised $200,000 in August between his political committees and his campaign account.

Most of the action was in Renner’s Conservatives for Principled Leadership PC, which brought in over $147,000 from 33 contributions.

Slow and low

Most Jacksonville-area state Representatives are in safe seats, denoted by the relative lack of urgency of fundraising in August.

HD 11 Republican Rep. Cord Byrd raised $1,750 in hard money and an additional $5,000 for his “1845” political committee. All told, he has roughly $23,000 on hand.

Safe seat: Rep. Cord Byrd shows a somewhat lack of urgency in fundraising.

HD 12 Republican Rep. Clay Yarborough raised just over $8,000, with much of the action from bail bonds companies; he has roughly $45,000 on hand.

HD 13 Democratic Rep. Tracie Davis had not reported August fundraising at this writing.

HD 14 Democratic Rep. Kim Daniels opened her campaign account late in August and reported no fundraising during those first few days.

HD 15 Republican Rep. Wyman Duggan was an exception to the sluggish trend, ramping up his operation with $26,000 raised in August.

HD 16 Republican Rep. Jason Fischer, generally an active fundraiser, slowed the pace in August, raising $6,000 between his campaign account and political committee. He has roughly $60,000 on hand, after having moved $45,000 to the establishment-aligned Florida Taxpayers Defense committee.

Thoughts and prayers

That was the cynical reaction of many upon reading reports, such as the one in the Jax Daily Record, which downtown institution First Baptist Church needs to downsize.

Downtown attendance is lagging, and the church is downsizing.

The institution, often credited with ensuring that Jacksonville’s civic life has resembled that of a backwater rather than what used to be peer cities to our south, no longer needs 10 city blocks.

Just one will do.

And all they need: a $30 million loan.

Attendance has declined by roughly two-thirds in the last 11 years; the average Sunday service now draws just over three thousand people.

Nevertheless, the Nocatee campus is booming.

While there is a little matter of deferred maintenance on the properties the church is looking to offload, that number is only expected to be $57 million or so.

A small price to pay for what is being billed as “A New Generation of Miracles.”

Zoo learning

An interesting new initiative, via media release: “Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (JZG) and Miami University have announced that the university is now accepting applications for a groundbreaking master’s degree that features experiential learning locally with JZG.”

Zoo Review: Jacksonville students can get credits from Miami (Ohio, not the Florida one).

This will allow Jacksonville students to get their credits online, via Miami University (in Ohio, not the one in Florida).

“We are thrilled to welcome local students to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens through this program with Miami University,” said Director of Education Leanne White. “The AIP will not only provide local Jacksonville residents with an affordable master’s degree, but this unique program will equip them to make strides toward a more sustainable future in our Jacksonville community and beyond.”

“We’re incredibly excited to welcome our newest AIP student cohort and first cohort in the southeastern U.S.,” said Lynne Myers, co-director and founder of Project Dragonfly. “Jacksonville Zoo is a terrific institution that joins a stellar group of public institutions coming together to improve human and ecological communities through the AIP. We’re really looking forward to working with the AIP students and the JZG in Jacksonville.”

Classes are slated to start in Spring 2020.

Hot hot hot

The Jaguars fizzled during their home opener, but temperatures sizzled, leading to an uptick in medical incidents.

The Florida Times-Union noted that there was a higher than average amount of emergency transports as early as halftime during the 40-26 loss.

Hot time in the TIAA Bank Field. Image via Claire Goforth.

One person quoted in the article was on his fifth water. Despite the Jaguars allowing people to bring in up to 16.9 ounces of H20, conditions ensured that while the first one is free, the rest were at a premium.

Local journalist Claire Goforth expressed fanbase frustrations in an excoriation of what passes for a “game experience” in Jacksonville.

“What I saw on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field was a continuation of a trend that has dominated the last decade of my fan experience: an organization more concerned with profits, the illusion of security and flashy ‘gameday experience’ coverage than it is with improving anything for the actual, everyday fan,” Goforth contends.

JTA board gets Chamber feel

This week, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced some moves on the Jacksonville Transportation Authority Board.

All aboard: JTA Board adds two with Jax Chamber ties.

Debbie Buckland and Ray Driver are new appointees to the panel.

Buckland, chair of the JAX Chamber, is market president for Branch Banking and Trust Company.

Driver, a corporate lawyer by trade, also has a Chamber connection: he’s chair of the JAXUSA Partnership.

Both are new to the board.

One reappointment was announced: Arezou Jolly, the assistant general counsel for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida. She is currently the vice-chair of the board.

These are popular picks, both inside JTA and the JAX Chamber.

Tweet, tweet:

Swooping to excellence

The University of North Florida has crossed a threshold. It is now a “national university.”

The ‘swoop’ makes the big leap, per U.S. News and World Report.

That’s the take of U.S. News and World Report’s college rankings that were rolled out this week.

“This new ranking sends a very important message about the future of UNF. We’re a top-tier, national university and no longer perceived as just a regional institution. This accolade reinforces our new, strategic direction of achieving national prominence across all our programs,” said UNF President David Szymanski.

The announcement notes that UNF has been a “best regional” for years, but has moved up in weight class, and is ranked #140 nationally.

As Florida Politics reported earlier, Sunshine State schools did well across the board, with the University of Florida topping the list.

More Town Center housing

The area around the Jacksonville Town Center, already reaching peak capacity, is slated to get more crowded.

More apartments for the Town Center area.

The Jax Daily Record reports that Presidium, a Texas developer, plans to start “immediately” on the construction of a 370-unit apartment complex on A.C. Skinner Parkway.

Last month, the group paid $6.73 million to Jacksonville Transportation Authority for the property. Expect four-story buildings, with options ranging from studios to three-bedroom apartments.

The cheapest rent: $1,150.

Vestcor makes ‘Waves’

A $30 million affordable housing project is coming to Jacksonville Beach.

The “Waves at Jacksonville Beach,” to be developed by Vestcor subsidiary TVC, involves the demolition of current units and replacement with 127 new ones.

Affordable housing comes in ‘waves.’ Image via Action News Jax.

Plans are also afoot for the renovation of an additional 89 units.

“We’re excited to move this project along,” said Jacksonville Housing Authority Chair Roslyn Mixon-Phillips. “These new affordable housing units will be a wonderful improvement for our tenants and the community.”

Construction is slated to wrap in 2021. Current residents relocated to other properties will have the right to return.

Trending up

Exciting news for local powerbrokers, as many of them have been recognized again in the latest edition of Florida Trend’s Florida 500.

For the uninitiated: “The editorial staff of Florida Trend recognizes Florida’s most influential business leaders spanning across more than 60 business categories. The editorial selection of the 500 executives was based on extensive contacts in regional business circles, hundreds of interviews and months of research, culminating in a highly selective biographical guide to the people who really run Florida.”

These are names you know, in other words, and they run the gamut.

From the Fiorentino Group, Marty Fiorentino and new hire John Delaney (former Jacksonville Mayor and then University of North Florida president) made the cut.

One in 500: John Delaney made the Florida Trend list.

Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan, unsurprisingly, also is in the top 500. Locally, he’s probably #1.

Jacksonville University President Tim Cost also made the list, as did Greenpointe Holdings President and CEO Edward Burr, U.S. Assure chair Tom Petway and Flagler Health+ head Jason Barrett

JEA CEO Aaron Zahn, leading the utility as it considers privatization, is also in … as is Tom Petway, the Curry supporter who pitched privatization as he left the board nearly two years ago.

Check out the entire list here.

Refugee drought

The flow of refugees to America during President Donald Trump’s administration has slowed, and that is having consequences for families, reports WJCT.

New arrivals to Jacksonville dropped from 1,457 in 2016 to 294 last year, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. Many of the refugees who do make it to Northeast Florida are “waiting for family members who now aren’t allowed to join them,” WJCT notes.

The number of refugees flowing into the Northeast Florida area is dwindling, thanks to the Donald Trump administration’s hard-line policies.

Reporter Abukar Adan talked to a Syrian immigrant who had been told in 2016 that her children could join the family stateside.

However, that did not happen.

It is part of a larger trend, a steep drop-off in just a few years.

“World Relief resettled nearly 5,000 refugees to Jacksonville in 2016. Before closing this year, it had served just three,” WJCT noted.

Merry-go-round stops

It’s the end of an era for an “iconic” carousel in St. Augustine’s Davenport Park.

Last rid … unless St. Augustine can work out a last-minute deal.

The owner of the carousel died. His widow said the last ride would be Sunday. And local commissioners, WJXT reports, are trying to find a workaround to keep the popular carousel spinning.

Time will tell, of course.

“It was a project of love is what we were told,” St. Augustine Commissioner Nancy Sikes Kline said, “ … a gift.”

However, it appears city leaders will have to shoulder responsibility if they want this gift to outlast the week.

Offense not the problem

Hopes for the Jaguars to return to their 2017 success took a hit possibly as hard as the one suffered by quarterback Nick Foles. The outlook might look bleak for a winning season and playoff berth following Foles’ placement on injured reserve, but perhaps more concern should go toward the defense instead of the offense.

Once Foles went down, rookie Gardner Minshew stepped in and completed the first 13 passes of his NFL career. The sixth-round draft choice out of Washington State wound up completing 22 of 25 passes for 275 yards with two touchdowns and an astounding quarterback rating of 122.5.

With Nick Foles out of the picture, rookie Gardner Minshew stepped in — and stepped up.

The Jags scored 19 of their 26 points with Minshew at the helm. He was rated as the second-ranked rookie for week one by PRR.

 “He played with a lot of poise and toughness,” said defensive captain Calais Campbell. “He made good decisions, quick decisions. He kept the chains moving, and that’s all you ask for. He showed he could produce, and hopefully, he can do it again.

The same could not be said for those on Campbell’s side of the ball. It can be forgiven to give up 40 points to an offense like that of the Chiefs, but the ejection of linebacker Myles Jack exemplified the lack of poise.

Jack, who just days signed a new contract extension, threw a punch and then had to be physically escorted off the field as he struggled to continue confronting the Chiefs. In addition, safety Ronnie Harrison drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting.

Campbell described the performance and conduct of the defense a “team thing.”

The excitement surrounding Minshew’s performance is only somewhat tempered by the knowledge this was against the Chiefs, who do not possess one of the NFL’s most feared defenses. Things get tougher on Sunday when the Jaguars visit Houston to play a Texans team smarting over a Monday night last-second loss to the Saints after playing well most of the night.

Irony alert: Foles gained notoriety by taking over the Eagles’ offense for an injured Carson Wentz, leading them to a Super Bowl win three years ago. Now, Foles gives way to his backup, whom the Jaguars only hope can keep them in the next few games.

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