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Jacksonville Bold for 9.27.19 — Keeping the band together

The Jacksonville City Council has always typified one dysfunction or another.

Keeping the band together

One dysfunction or another has always typified the Jacksonville City Council.

The previous Council’s bitter harvest, right now, is playing out adjacent to City Hall in a federal courtroom. Two former members, Reggie and Katrina Brown, conspired to siphon over $3 million of grant and loan money earmarked to Katrina Brown’s family’s BBQ sauce plant.

$600,000 of that sum, city money, was approved by the previous Council.

The current Council has no open corruption investigations that we know of, but there is a real dysfunction visible on the dais.

Council President (and others) openly mock Democrat Garrett Dennis. He is called “Mr. Irrelevant” and “Mr. 18-1.”

Open mocking of Garrett Dennis is only one sign of dysfunction on the Council.

There have been Council members who opposed the consensus before. But not in recent history has there been such open animosity for someone on the dais.

Republican Randy DeFoor has cut an independent streak since running for Council as Lenny Curry’s candidate. The Mayor’s team has noticed, with some saying they might have been better off if Democrat Sunny Gettinger had won because at least there would have been no surprises. 

The Council that came in 2015 took time to really demonstrate personal dislike. In 2019, the dais bristles with it.

Is this sustainable? Obviously, in the short term. It’s a Strong Mayor town, and Curry has buy-in from the legislative body. The economy continues to be healthy. 

In the long term, though, when millage rates tank and tougher decisions have to be made than the right note of outrage for the sound bites, this group will have to find a way to work together.

POW memorial sought

Jacksonville’s two Congressmen speak in one voice, advocating for an expanded role for a POW/MIA memorial at Cecil Field, per Florida Today.

U.S. Reps. Al Lawson and John Rutherford want it to be the “national memorial and museum to honor all former prisoners of war and those still missing-in-action.”

Lockstep: Two Jacksonville Congressmen with one mission.

“While there are museums to honor veterans across the country, there is no national POW/MIA memorial or museum to specifically honor all former prisoners of war,” Lawson said at the end of last week. “We must acknowledge and remember our nation’s missing heroes alongside the families who seek their return.”

“More than 82,000 Americans currently remain missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts,” said Rutherford. “Sadly, the loved ones of prisoners of war or those missing in action have no national memorial to visit in remembrance of the immense sacrifice of these men and women.” 

“I am proud to introduce this bill with my friend Rep. Lawson to designate the POW/MIA Memorial and Museum at Cecil Field as the national memorial. Having a location such as this is incredibly important to our POW/MIA families and a measure of thankfulness from a grateful nation,” Rutherford added.

Relief at last

A new bill from Jacksonville state Rep. Kim Daniels seeks to right some of the wrongs created for a man wrongfully incarcerated for decades.

HB 6507 seeks to compensate Jacksonville’s Clifford Williams, locked up for 43 years for a crime he did not commit.

Relief is sought for a man wrongfully imprisoned for 43 years, via Rep. Kim Daniels.

The total money sought: $2.150 million.

In May 1976, Jeannette Williams was killed in the New Town neighborhood of Jacksonville. Ms. Williams’ domestic partner, Nina Marshall, identified Mr. Williams (no relation to the victim) as one of two men who shot her.

The purported motive was sordid and clear: Mr. Williams was 33 and dealt heroin. Marshall was a customer, and she claimed Mr. Williams fired shots over back rent.

Mr. Williams, who was exonerated in 2019 by State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s Conviction Integrity Unit, is not eligible for relief because of previous felony convictions. 

Daniels’ bill, at least in theory, could change that.

Daniels was also one of eleven appointees this week to DeSantis’ Women’s Suffrage Commission, one of two Democrats with Sen. Lauren Book.

Can Lenny fix it?

Curry made news this week with an offer to a local Duval Schools teacher and occasional critic: If the school district can’t fix busted air conditioning units, the city can.

Mayor Lenny Curry was busy on Twitter this week. Image via WJCT.

Curry has stood against and successfully obstructed efforts to get a voter referendum on the 2019 ballot for a one-half cent sales tax that would go toward the district’s nearly $2 billion capital backlog.

Per WJXT: “On Sunday night, the Twitter account Jacksonville Education Matters replied to the Jacksonville mayor’s tweet, which asked if people were watching ‘Sunday Night Football’ or the Emmy Awards. Jacksonville Education Matters’ tweet referenced the account’s profile picture of an aging air conditioner and said, ‘I am working on lesson plans wondering if the AC in my class is going to work tomorrow.’”

Curry offered to help: “Please get me your classroom needs. I will get it fixed. What is your school, your room and your need?”

He echoed that statement, not seen as sincere by many on the other side of the issue, in an antiseptic press avail this week.

“There is a way to do it. We’re going to make an assessment now, if we actually hear there are ways to be helpful. I will do what my team does and figure it out and help solve a problem,” Curry said.

Curry has expressed interest in electing the Superintendent, a position that has been appointed for decades. Rep. Jason Fischer, an ally of Curry’s in the Legislature, has a local bill that would allow voters to weigh in on that in a coming election.

Tweet, tweet:

Budget bonanza

The Jacksonville City Council voted up its FY 2019-20 budget Tuesday night, a $1.37 billion spending plan.

Curry has called this a “transformational” budget, and it reflects payoffs from moves ranging from re-amortization of the city’s pension debt to favorable variances in recent budgets.

With a $173 million capital improvement budget, big-ticket projects, such as multiyear and multimillion-dollar capital projects at UF Health, the Florida Theatre and the Zoo, got resources.

The Florida Theatre is ready for its close-up.

Republican Rory Diamond moved to move over $3.1 million from various funds dedicated to Jacksonville Beach fire services on the county level to the budget of Jacksonville Beach Fire and Rescue. Though Duval County is consolidated, Jacksonville Beach maintains local identity.

Everything is illuminated

For those who believe Florida Power and Light will end up acquiring the electrical side of JEA, a new FPL hire may prove illuminating.

Cathy Chambers could be key to Jacksonville’s utility future.

Cathy Chambers left the JAXUSA Partnership and started with FPL this week, the Jax Daily Record reports.

Chambers was with the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce for 17 years; she will be FPL’s new economic development manager.

FPL has expressed interest in buying local Jacksonville utility JEA; meanwhile, NextEra plans to sell $1.5 billion of equity units for project investments … a category that could include utility acquisition.

JEA pensions guaranteed

And that wasn’t the only JEA-centric news.

The city of Jacksonville guaranteed the pensions of employees of the local utility ahead of a potential sale with a 16-3 vote in City Council.

It’s only money: if JEA sold, COJ absorbs the pension hit.

If the utility is “recapitalized” within the next three years, or sold for more than $3 billion as the legislation targets, then this bill goes into effect.

The expected financial impact: $129 million, if a recapitalization goes through.

Council President Scott Wilson said this was the last bill that wouldn’t be fully vetted by the Council regarding the sale of JEA.

Many groused that it had just one committee stop, saying it should have gone to Rules or Transportation Energy and Utilities.

The Council, so focused on the ½ cent sales tax debate for schools, apparently missed this bill until it was way too late.

Better luck next time.

Unemployment stays strong

Another good month of jobs numbers for the Jacksonville area, per the Jax Daily Record.

“The jobless rate in the Jacksonville metropolitan area (Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties) fell from 3.5 percent in July to 3.4 percent in August,” per the Record.

Unemployment is low, and business is good.

When the rates are seasonally adjusted, both in Jacksonville and the larger area, they come in virtually even month over month.

Florida’s rate, 3.3 percent, is even better than the five-county region.

Prevent 360°

Advocacy groups Darkness to Light and the Monique Burr Foundation for Children are dedicated to keeping Jacksonville children safe; the groups are rolling out a new joint program to make sure kids are protected from sexual abuse and other forms of victimization.

According to its website, Prevent 360° is a “comprehensive approach that includes complementary language and strategies,” allowing both adults and children to share a common language to discuss sexual abuse. The program is geared toward children, adults, organizations and communities.

With Prevent 360° users get a “one-stop prevention solution” with access to nationally recognized child and adult-focused programming, programs backed by evidence and research, a commitment to ongoing research to ensure efficacy and consistency and exclusive access to a 10% discount for both programs*.

To learn more about Prevent 360°, visit prevent360.org.

JAXPORT CEO named top leader

Florida Trend named JAXPORT CEO Eric Green among the state’s most influential business leaders.

In its annual Florida 500 series, the magazine cites Green as a transportation industry leader focused on growing the port and its contributions to Florida’s economy. After serving as the port’s primary lobbyist for more than a decade, Green became CEO in 2017. DeSantis named Green to his Transition Advisory Committee on Economic Policy and he sits on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Tiger Academy of Jacksonville.

Congratulations to JAXPORT CEO Eric Green named among Florida Trend’s Top 500.

“I am honored by this recognition and extremely proud of everything we’re doing here at JAXPORT to grow the port and create prosperity for our community,” Green in a statement. “The recent successes we have achieved are a direct reflection of the hard work and dedication of a number of people, including our board, employees, tenants, customers and maritime partners.”

Earlier this year, Green brought international exposure to Jacksonville through a historic agreement with SSA Atlantic to build a $238.7 million state-of-the-art international container terminal at JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal. The agreement is a public-private partnership to upgrade terminal infrastructure and build the port of the future.

Pre-roll road warriors

Whether the Jaguars get a W or an L in Denver, road fans could come away with a J, reports FCN

“As a native and a die-hard Jags fan with the [Gardener] Minshew stache, I want to not only increase business in my store but offer something that competitors won’t do,” said Joseph Pall, the store manager of Elements Boulder Dispensary.

Teal means green in Boulder this weekend.

Recreational cannabis in Colorado, while legal, is subject to taxation. However, the joint otherwise is free.

Recipients must be wearing teal on game day to qualify. 

The 1-2 Jaguars are underdogs to the winless Broncos, but fans who take advantage of this promotion will feel like winners no matter what.

Meanwhile, as Minshew-juana is all the rage in Denver, in Jacksonville, the City Council downvoted a decriminalization measure this week, likening herb to fentanyl. 

In other cannabis news, the latest Trulieve facility is open at Jacksonville Beach, on 6th Avenue. Jacksonville Beach was initially resistant to dispensaries, but Trulieve is in — finally.

Minshew mania hits Jacksonville

Not many pay attention to anyone, drafted in the sixth round of the NFL draft. That applied to Minshew when the Jaguars selected him in the sixth round with the 178th overall pick.

He was destined to roam the sidelines helping to signal in plays to starting quarterback Nick Foles. Fate intervened in the first half of the first game, when an injury sent Foles to injured reserve and Minshew into the line of fire, where he has repeatedly fired back.

Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew would do “damn near anything” to play more football.

Several things had to fall into place just for him to have a chance to play in the NFL. One was getting the opportunity to play his final season of college eligibility for pass-happy coach Mike Leach at Washington State.

After throwing for 24 touchdowns as a two-year starter at East Carolina, he graduated and was eligible for one more season. He was prepared to be a third-string quarterback at Alabama, but Leach offered him a starting job, where he threw for 38 more touchdowns last year.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, he was far down the list of quarterbacks, ranking 12th out of 21 invited. Minshew was not expected to see significant playing time anytime soon, but in his first three games for the Jaguars, he has completed 73 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and only one interception.

Minshew has shown he has the confidence it takes to be successful but understands it is a team game.

“I trust the preparation I put in. I trust the coaches and the guys they put around me,” he told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt. “And that lets guys have more confidence in me.”

His confidence — and that of his teammates — is growing. That, and a little extra oxygen, will be needed Sunday when the Jaguars travel to Denver to face the Broncos.

Player of the week

Congratulations to defensive end Calais Campbell on being selected the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. He had three of the Jaguars’ nine sacks in their 20-7 win over Tennessee.

Written By

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist, editor and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing, reporting and management experience, Phil produced content for both print and online, in addition to founding several specialty websites, including HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range included covering news, local government and entertainment reviews for Patch.com, technical articles, and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine as well as advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as editor and production manager for Extensive Enterprises Media since 2013 and lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul. He can be reached at phil.ammann@gmail.com.

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