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Jacksonville Bold for 11.1.19 — November rain.

Fall winds finally will blow in Jacksonville this morning, as a showdown ensues.

November rain.

Fall winds finally will blow in Jacksonville this morning, as a showdown ensues in the City Council Chambers.

At issue is Rep. Jason Fischer’s local bill before the Duval County legislative delegation that would start a pathway toward an elected school superintendent.

Jason Fischer’s elected school superintendent bill may get pushback in the Senate. Image via Colin Hackley.

Fischer may have the votes to move this through the House, though a Senate rule may present trouble in the Senate.

Local rule 4.18 allows a Senator from the affected area to block consideration. Democratic leader Sen. Audrey Gibson has that latitude, though she wasn’t showing her cards when we asked her about it Tuesday.

The School Board resolved against the bill. The Jacksonville City Council saw a similar resolution fall short with a 9-9 vote. Fischer’s “constituents” tell him that they want the bill, though, and that anecdotal evidence may be enough.

People keep complaining to Bold, and a lot of the questions, relative to schools and JEA and the other hot-button issues of the moment, come down to dissatisfaction.

Some of the donors and the players who invested so heavily in 2015 now have regrets. They don’t like the tone or the way things are playing out. They don’t want to go on record with any of this, most of them. But they sure wouldn’t mind if we did it.

Those close to the Mayor contend he’s making his decisions and not too worried about what any of them say. Why should he be? There’s no real indication he has another political run in him. The idea that he wants to go to D.C. and be a cog in the GOP resistance in the House is rooted only in the “well, he’s a politician, so of course, he wants D.C.” narrative.

He could run for Governor in 2026 or Rick Scott’s Senate seat in 2024. Jacksonville is a tough place to run from and win statewide, though. 

Curry amassed a lot of political capital, and it is being used. The transformations and privatizations hinted at in 2015 and 2016 are bearing fruit after reelection with a margin so emphatic most voters stayed home. People can complain all they want. But the game was over years ago. 

Legislators on the move

In recent days, Jacksonville area state Legislators have made some asks in the 2020 budget and filed other legislation besides.

Rep. Wyman Duggan on Wednesday requested $488,000 for the Clara White Mission’s daily feeding program for seniors and the homeless. Clara White has been cash-strapped in recent years, but Gov. Ron DeSantis may believe this is a city funding matter to resolve.

Rep. Fischer requested $300,000 for the Jacksonville School for Autism’s Supportive Transition Employment Program on Tuesday.

Fin trade would be finished under the Travis Hutson proposal. Good news for sharks.

Sen. Travis Hutson will carry the Senate version of a bill that would further restrict traffic in shark fins.

Import, export, and sale will be banned, should the bill become law. Possession of shark fins is already illegal.

No featherbedding

Rep. Bobby Payne, a Republican whose state House district includes southern Clay County, offered an interesting under-the-radar bill this week.

It’s simple: candidates cannot donate surplus campaign funds to charitable organizations for whom they work.

Bobby Payne offers some common-sense campaign finance reform for 2020.

Payne’s bill amends Statute 106.141, “Disposition of surplus funds by candidates.”

Up to $25,000 can be given to the state party or a campaign committee.

Donors have, on occasion, groused about what happens to donations once the checks are written.

The most extreme example is that of former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum’s political committee, which closed the 2018 campaign with nearly $4 million on hand.

Former Gillum supporter John Morgan says that’s tantamount to fraud.

Workshops galore

The Jacksonville City Council will, over the next several months, delve into a deeper understanding of JEA’s financial position ahead of a potential “recapitalization” event.

JEA CEO Aaron Zahn is the man in the middle of the JEA privatization push. 

Council members have groused about being sidelined during a potential sale of the utility, but through May, they will have a series of colloquies that will allow them to air their concerns.

They will look at valuation reports of the utility, followed by meetings recapping board meetings where JEA decided to explore new options, such as a sale, a co-op structure, or attempting to maintain the status quo in a landscape of rising costs and declining demand.

April will offer Mayor Lenny Curry‘s vision of what could happen to proceeds. Curry wants at least $3 BILLION (not million) net, and that could wipe out a lot of long-term city debt.

Insiders expect the administration to move to a more “aggressive” posture, with Jordan Elsbury keeping the process on track.

Much of this is ground traveled already, by the previous Council or the JEA Board. Advocates for recapitalization note that is necessary because the Council hasn’t educated itself on this issue.

In any case, the next few months will be a test of current President Scott Wilson. Can he keep this Council in line? And can he avoid giving too much in quotes when times get tough?

Lawyer up

The Jacksonville Business Journal has the scoop on the five firms vying to represent the Jacksonville City Council over the next few months as it explores the concept of a JEA sale.

The Abel Bean firm features Daniel Bean, former managing partner of Holland and Knight. Bean is a frequent presence in City Hall.

Is Abel Bean able to be the City Council’s lawyers in the JEA sale exploration? Image via Jax Daily Record.

Smith Hulsey and Busey also bid, with Councilors Matt Carlucci and Randy DeFoor advocating for that hire.

Gray Robinson is also in play. JBJ spotlights Tom Cloud, who has experience in utility ownership transfers such as the recent one to FPL in Vero Beach.

Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman … recommended by Councilman Michael Boylan … would include former general counsels of the Florida Public Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as well as executives from public and private utilities,” per JBJ.

Boylan is handling the JEA select committee in Council, as well.

Game on

Florida/Georgia is this weekend, and Curry started the week with good news: the game will stay in town at least a couple of more years.

Lenny Curry won’t lose the Georgia/Florida game for Jacksonville.

Action News Jax reports that an accord has been struck through 2023, with options for two more years for what was once called the World’s Largest Cocktail Party.

City Council will have to approve this deal, and it would be a real profile in political courage (and potentially suicidal impulses) to stand in opposition.

Though there have been some dog matchups in recent years, the game this year comes with both teams still not entirely outside the national championship playoff picture (though a lot needs to happen, etc.)

The 7-1 Gators are ranked 6th in the nation; the 6-1 Bulldogs are 8th. 

The winner gets a poll bump. The loser … not so much. 

London again

While the Gators and the Bulldogs battle on a neutral site, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has a road warrior mentality this week.

Home away from home: Jax Chamber, Jaguars cross the ocean this week.

The business group, per the Jacksonville Daily Record, has/d 14 meetings in London this week.

Yes, the Jaguars are overseas, with a 9:30 a.m. start against the intra-division Houston Texans.

What we know: Curry is going, but not with the Chamber. Jaguars’ president Mark Lamping may incidentally show up at Chamber events, but don’t count on it.

The Jacksonville/London pipeline is now in Year 7. 

Longest table back

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce will return from London, however, and when they do … well, smart folks will get ready to reserve their berths for November’s biggest event. 

Jacksonville’s Longest Table is slated for Nov. 20 this year, weather permitting.

The Longest Table: back for another year.

The Longest Table is a free shared meal at one table that stretches hundreds of feet along Independent Drive,” per the Chamber.

Tickets go on sale on Wednesday at 6 a.m.

“We recommend setting your alarm — last year, all tickets were claimed in a few hours,” the Chamber notes.

The event allows people to sit together for meals with people they usually might not dine with, as Jacksonville continues to bridge long-standing cultural divides.

Where shopping is a pressure

Publix is looking to ax its Gateway Mall location. Local officials don’t want that to happen, as that would create yet another food desert, this one on the Northside.

City Councilman Reggie Gaffney says this is the “#1 crisis” in Jacksonville right now, given how the store is walkable for many who have no other way to get around.

Councilman Reggie Gaffney sees a “crisis,” but can the city fix it?

First Coast News reports that there are moves afoot to stop this from happening.

“Every store’s not going to make a million dollars, but it may be your turn to give back in some instances,” Gaffney said. “I’m not going to ask Publix to take a loss, and that’s why I want them to come back to the table and see how the city can work with them.”

Curry’s office issued a statement to First Coast News saying, “The city has reached out to both Publix and the property owner to determine what, if anything, we can do to assist and keep the business in this location.”

The “if anything” suggests that the ship has already sailed. 

Parking problems

Some pushback is emerging against an ambitious proposal to privatize city parking in Urban Core commercial districts, reports The Jaxson.

Elite Parking Services, the company of exiting Downtown Investment Authority board member Dane Grey, wants to take over city parking, via an unsolicited proposal.

Neighborhood groups, such as the San Marco Preservation Society, frame Grey’s proposal as a solution in search of a problem.

“The proposal lists services outside of the DIA’s boundaries for “San Marco Blvd” and “San Marco Place.” Discussion of downtown parking solutions and this particular proposal should not include San Marco. The parking conditions, needs, and environment are San Marco is wholly different from that of downtown Jacksonville’s, and should be regarded as such,” asserts SMPS President Linzee Ott.

San Marco advocates balk at a new parking pitch. Image via MetroJacksonville.com.

Likewise, Riverside Avondale Preservation “is following this issue, and will be sending a letter to DIA to request that key constituents from the neighborhoods be engaged before deciding what parking solutions might be best for the merchants, residents, and visitors for Five Points or other commercial districts in Riverside and Avondale.”

Grey is popular with Chamber types. But on Tuesdays in City Council, it’s the neighborhoods that make the noise. 

JAXPORT hits cargo record

JAXPORT enjoyed a record-breaking 2019, with new highs in containers, autos and overall cargo.

As first reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, the port moved 1.338 million twenty-foot equivalent units, a 5 percent increase the previous year, which itself was a record year at the port. This is the fourth consecutive year of record numbers.

One of those records was in vehicles moving through JAXPORT— nearly 696,500 total units — continuing as one of the nation’s busiest vehicle handling ports.

JAXPORT has its fourth consecutive record-breaking year. 

With total cargo, 10.9 million tons moved through JAXPORT in 2019 — a 4 percent jump over 2018.

Although not as robust as cargo, JAXPORT’s cruise business had a solid business, with nearly 195,000 passengers setting sail. That fell just short of the 2018 cruise passenger record of 199,000 passengers.

Marqise Lee’s sad story

The sad story of wide receiver Marqise Lee may have a happy ending one day, but not this year and probably not with the Jaguars. As the team was preparing to head to London, Lee was placed on Injured Reserve, likely ending his season.

After two good seasons in 2016 and 2017, Lee went to training camp in 2018, seeking to help an offense get over the hump and make it to the Super Bowl, which they narrowly missed in 2017. The Jaguars believed in him as well, signing him to a four-year, $38 million contract in March 2018.

Marqise Lee may have a happy ending one day. Not this year.

Lee tore his ACL before the 2018 season started, forcing him to miss the entire year. He had the right attitude as he sought to fight his way back onto the field.

“And at the end of the day, it’s football,” he said. “One thing I always say is we know what we sign up for when we decide to sign up for this game. Injuries come along with it, and I just so happen to have one.”

He made it back on the field this year in the third game but tweaked his ankle two weeks ago against the Saints. During last week’s victory over the Jets, Lee caught one pass for eight yards before injuring his shoulder, bringing his season total to three catches for 18 yards.

He may have played his last for the Jaguars. About one-fourth of Lee’s contract is guaranteed, and the team may not wish to bet he can stay on the field.

With Lee missing Sunday’s game in London against the Houston Texans, things got really dicey when receiver D.J. Chark showed up on the injury report with a quad injury. He is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game

To make things worse, another starting wide receiver, Dede Westbrook, is also doubtful with a shoulder injury. But with the Texans losing All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt to a season-ending injury, little sympathy will be coming from them.

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