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Jacksonville Bold for 11.22.19 — Look to Tallahassee

Should the Duval County School Superintendent be elected? All eyes turn to Tallahassee.

Look to Tallahassee

Monday afternoon will see an organizational meeting for the Duval County legislative delegation at Jacksonville City Hall, an event that likely will lack the drama of the last meeting of the same group.

Weeks before, the delegation approved by a 6-2 vote carrying a Rep. Jason Fischer local bill that could lead to a referendum in Duval County, if it passes muster with the state.

That referendum would address the question of whether the School Board Superintendent should be elected or not.

Though there was a lot of grousing ahead of this vote, all the Republicans and Democratic Rep. Kim Daniels fell in line with this move, which would ultimately disempower a school board often at odds with City Hall.

Between that, and the genuine possibility that another Fischer bill will compel any sales-tax referendum to have charters receive referendum along with public schools, what’s critical is that the Duval County School Board needs to step up its game regarding intergovernmental relations, both with City Hall and Tallahassee.

Enter Warren Jones.

Warren Jones will be the face of the Duval County School Board in 2020.

The former seven-term Jacksonville City Councilman, and briefly a Lenny Curry appointee to the JEA Board, is now chair of that panel as of a special meeting Tuesday.

The previous chair, Lori Hershey, though a steadfast advocate for her board’s position, is a political neophyte in comparison.

While the “not a politician” shtick has its place, in a time when compromise and power politics are the two knives being juggled, it’s helpful to have a veteran presence in the chair.

Jones, always acutely conscious of the politics of the possible, was the School Board’s best shot.

No more moves

Donna Deegan, who last week launched her campaign for Congress, will be giving up a freelance TV gig to chase that dream.

Deegan, a Democrat running for her party’s nomination in Florida’s 4th Congressional District, had hosted a show put on by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.

Donna Deegan, with Andrew Gillum in 2018, while still hosting the JTA show.

Making Moves was already an established franchise when Deegan, a former local news anchor of long-standing, took over hosting duties in 2014 in a move widely reported at the time.

“Donna Deegan returning to television in Jacksonville,” a headline read.

JTA spokesman David Cawton told us Friday afternoon that Deegan was “never an employee at the JTA, just a freelancer for the Making Moves show that airs once a month.”

JTA did not know Deegan was running for office, Cawton said. And she won’t be back on the air now that she is an active candidate.

The low-key “Making Moves” show is a sympathetic in-house presentation extolling JTA achievements and initiatives. Nothing therein offered insight that Deegan would soon run for Congress against Rep. John Rutherford.

Spicer up your life

Republican Judson Sapp is off to a fast start raising money for his second run in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District.

According to his campaign, the Clay County Republican was able to reel in $100,000 for his bid in the first eight hours after it went live.

He’ll look to keep that momentum going next month with a Dec. 9 fundraiser in Orange Park. Topping the host list is former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

Former WH Spox and RNC flack Sean Spicer embodies heartland conservatism.

Per the invite, all attendees will get a signed copy of Spicer’s book, “The Briefing,” which details his time working in the White House.

The reception starts at 6:30 p.m., but the venue is only available to those who send in an RSVP.

Sapp has already hosted an event with Donald J. Trump Jr. The Spicer visit is another interesting move for Sapp, a Trump Victory campaign member, given that incumbent Rep. Ted Yoho dithers over a decision as to whether to run for a fifth term.

Yoho has been a staunch supporter of the President, but Sapp clearly is making a Trumpworld play all his own.

Opportunity zones

With a growing list of media reports on a program designed to aid poor neighborhoods providing tax breaks for rich ones, Democratic U.S. Reps. Val Demings, Frederica Wilson, and Al Lawson joined a call Tuesday for reform of the opportunity zones tax breaks program.

Rep. Al Lawson may be at cross-purposes with Jacksonville donors.

Lawson represents the Jacksonville area, where developers/donors such as Shad Khan and Peter Rummell are poised to benefit from favorable designations for projects.

Demings, Wilson, and Lawson were among 26 members of the U.S. House of Representatives who co-signed a letter sent Monday by Democratic Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina to the chairs and ranking members of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and the U.S. Senate Finance Committee urging them to support passage of legislation that tightens rules for the Opportunity Zone Program.

Lawson doesn’t appear to have serious competition for reelection in 2020.

Bright future

After Sen. Travis Hutson conceded the race for the Senate presidency in 2022 to Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, speculation swirled as to how that affected Northeast Florida.

One plugged-in Republican consultant offered a dire read, saying that the region’s position was compromised for some time going forward.

The theory: that Jennifer Bradley, running for Senate in 2020, would be blocked from the presidency herself.

No blowback after leadership vote, Jennifer Bradley says.

“They tried to tie [Hutson], Manny Diaz, and Jennifer Bradley together and seize the future of the Senate for six years and it became too much,” goes the theory, which suggests that the deal-making went back as far as the 2019 budget deliberations when Sen. Rob Bradley was budget chair.

Jennifer, in response, rejected the idea that there was anything to worry about.

“Any discussion about serving as president of a body to which I have not even been elected is premature,” she said. “Kathleen Passidomo and I have a wonderful relationship, and the future is very bright for our region.”

A lobbyist with experience in Northeast Florida issues and beyond also discounts the “fallout” narrative.

“Jenn went with the hometown guy,” the lobbyist said. “Which is always the right thing to do.”

Whether Jennifer Bradley is on a glide path to the Senate presidency or permanently foreclosed from it, the near-term future is bright for the first-time candidate.

Running in deep-red Senate District 5 to succeed her husband, Bradley already has $1.2 million to deploy.

While a Democrat and a Libertarian have each filed, neither has a structure that can compete with the Bradley machine.

Tax cut pitched

Legislation filed in both the House and the Senate Tuesday would cut Florida’s Communications Services Tax.

The Communications Services Tax, which Floridians encounter on their phone and cable bills, is the ninth highest in the country.

If the push to cut these taxes sounds familiar, that’s because efforts to reduce these taxes have surfaced repeatedly in recent years.

The argument is that these high taxes impede business growth and tax compliance, with 482 different “widely varying” municipal tax rates.

“Hardworking Floridians and growing businesses deserve a break,” said Sen. Travis Hutson. “This tax cut will put money back in consumers’ pockets where it belongs.”

Travis Hutson, Jason Fischer attempt another cut to the state’s Communications Service Tax.

Hutson is carrying the Senate version, while Rep. Jason Fischer will handle the House companion, HB 701.

“Hardworking families deserve tax relief,” Fischer said. “This legislation will simplify our tax code, and it will cut taxes for consumers here in our state.”

Florida TaxWatch and Americans for Tax Reform support this. Expect Fischer and Hutson to at least be able to get traction in committees in 2020.

Leadership track

House Speaker José Oliva and Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls are hosting a fundraiser in Tallahassee, benefiting the reelection campaigns of fellow Republican Reps. Paul Renner and Bob Rommel.

Renner, who represents the Palm Coast area in the House, is a lawyer in Jacksonville professionally.

The reception will be in the Capital Room of the Governors Club from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 11. The date aligns with the final interim committee week ahead of the 2020 Legislative Session, which begins Jan. 14.

Expect still more robust fundraising from Paul Renner.

More details are available with an RSVP.

Renner, who represents the plurality-Republican HD 24, is in line to become House Speaker in 2022, following Sprowls’ two-year term behind the lectern.

October saw Renner rake in more than $170,000 in contributions between his campaign and committees, Conservatives for Principled Leadership and Florida Foundation for Liberty. The three accounts have more than $1.3 million at the ready.

His opponent, St. Augustine Democrat Adam Morley, has raised just $560 through four months in the race.

Morley has run against and lost to Renner before.

Terror squad

A Republican member of the state House is ready to “take the gloves off and act” when it comes to fighting foreign narco-terrorist groups.

Rep. Cord Byrd filed a memorial Tuesday, urging the federal government to designate drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.

Byrd, a second-term Republican from Jacksonville Beach, was unsparing in describing the havoc wreaked by these groups.

Cord Byrd is urging the federal government to designate drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.

“Drug cartels are directly responsible for, not only the drugs pouring across our southern border, but also for human trafficking, sex trafficking, corruption, murder, and gang activity in the United States. The federal government has the tools to directly interdict these threats,” Byrd claimed.

Byrd, a potential candidate for Congress once Rep. John Rutherford retired, clearly has a sequel in mind for the last Session’s Sanctuary Cities ban.

Tweet, tweet:

Expansion time

A bill filed in the Florida House this week seeks state money for the continued revamp of Downtown Jacksonville’s Florida Theatre.

More changes contemplated for the historic Florida Theatre.

HB 3871, the “Florida Theatre Expansion Project,” contemplates $636,000 for continued improvements in the facility.

Rep. Tracie Davis is carrying the bill, while The Southern Group’s Matt Brockelman is handling the lobbying effort.

Why’s the money needed?

“Originally, the Florida Theatre was designed as a movie theater, not as a performing arts center, which makes finding program space difficult. A planned expansion to the Theatre will join the second-floor lobby to the second floor of the adjoining office building to create 3,000 sq, ft. of new public space for receptions, programming and rentals. It will help the Theatre to expand their community offerings with the space needed to hold arts-based programs and classes to students of all ages.”

Per the approps request, the money will lead to cultural enrichment.

“Our goal is to reach every corner of the Northeast Florida community on an annual basis, and each year we attempt to construct a calendar that has ‘something for everyone.’ This includes new and emerging artists; racially and ethnically diverse artists; and artistically diverse performers; all presented at a scale not otherwise being served in this market. With more space, we can also hold family and children’s events and classes without needing to open the theater reaching even more people.”

Professional help

Jacksonville’s public utility has engaged lobbyists to help negotiate issues revolving around a potential sale.

JEA, which is exploring privatization as part of a suite of recapitalization options, hired The Southern Group to help with Jacksonville City Council and other local governments.

The firm, according to Southern Group partner Matt Brockelman, will focus on government relations support throughout the utility’s service territory.

Matt Brockelman will help the City Council understand JEA’s situation.

It will be working with JEA in Duval and other surrounding counties where JEA serves customers on JEA’s Invitation to Negotiate.

Expectations are for The Southern Group to help “represent JEA before the county governments in Nassau and St. Johns, and in Duval we’d be a force multiplier for JEA and others inside (and outside) City Hall who believe the current ITN process is a healthy exercise that should have a chance to play out regardless of final outcome.”

Resiliency, finally

Sunny day flooding can be found in many low-lying parts of Jacksonville, and the local City Council looks to explore mitigation and resiliency strategies, via a special committee.

“Population growth and natural forces stress our infrastructure and threaten our coastal and river areas more than ever before. To address these challenges, I am appointing a special council committee to determine how we can increase the city’s resilience in the aftermath of a natural disaster. The committee will also assess the health of coastal areas, the St. Johns River, its tributaries, wetlands and riparian land,” asserts Council President Scott Wilson.

Matt Carlucci will chair the panel, calling the work a “huge undertaking that may be the most important issue of our age.”

The committee can recommend policy to the Mayor and the City Council. Other members will include Michael Boylan, Randy DeFoor, Garrett Dennis, Rory Diamond, Joyce Morgan and Wilson himself.

Groundbreaking

Via the Jacksonville Daily Record, a report that Jacksonville will be the first to have a new type of cancer treatment.

The Mayo Clinic, in conjunction with the Hitachi Corporation, will bring carbon ion therapy to its local cancer treatment facility.

Carbon ion therapy will be part of Mayo’s $233 integrated oncology facility planned for completion by late 2022.

The Food and Drug Administration still must approve this method.

Jacksonville Mayor Curry extolled Mayo at the event.

“Over the years, our city has earned a reputation as a leader in the health and life sciences sector, in no small part because of the Mayo Clinic,” Curry said. “We’re one of three U.S. cities who can claim the prestigious Mayo name, and their presence here is growing … Today’s announcement will only further enhance that reputation for both Mayo and Jacksonville.”

“Making new and innovative treatments available to patients with serious or complex health care needs is part of our DNA at Mayo Clinic,” said Kent Thielen, CEO of Mayo Clinic Florida. “We are proud to build on our long-standing relationship with Hitachi to make carbon ion therapy available to patients who will benefit from this technology.”

Happening today

U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby joins elected officials, including Curry, and leadership from JAXPORT and SSA Marine to break ground on a new international container terminal at JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal.

The groundbreaking ceremony begins at 8:45 a.m., JAXPORT Blount Island Marine Terminal, 9620 Dave Rawls Blvd. Jacksonville, FL 32226

JAXPORT and SSA Marine reach a long-term agreement on $238.7 million international container terminal at Blount Island.

During the event, Buzby will present JAXPORT Board Vice-Chairman Jamie Shelton and CEO Eric Green with a $20 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grant. This grant is part of a $238.7 million plan to expand and upgrade the facility.

The SSA Jacksonville Container Terminal is a public-private partnership between JAXPORT and SSA Marine.

The federal project to deepen the Jacksonville shipping channel to 47 ft. is two years ahead of schedule and anticipated to be completed in 2023, based on sustained funding. Harbor Deepening will allow the facility to accommodate more cargo aboard the larger ships calling on JAXPORT from destinations throughout Asia, including China, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and more.

JAXPORT hires trade zone pro

JAXPORT is brining on foreign trade zone expert Deborah Lofberg, according to the Jacksonville Business Journal.

Lofberg joins the commercial team as manager of foreign trade zone and will manage the Port’s foreign trade zone and will be responsible for attracting new business, tracking trends and maximizing savings and the port potential.

JAXPORT is hiring foreign trade zone expert Deborah Lofberg.

Before coming to JAXPORT, Lofberg served as an executive administrator at Monroe County Fire Rescue.

“In addition to a wealth of industry knowledge and experience, Debbie also provides an outstanding level of service for our FTZ customers,” said JAXPORT CEO Eric Green. “She is a full-service resource for current and future customers looking to grow their businesses using the cost-saving advantages our FTZ offers.”

Girl Scout cookie kick-off

Get ready to kick off the 2019-20 season of the Girl Scout Cookie Program with Scouts, family, and the Jacksonville Jaguars at GSGC’s Cookie Kickoff Family Tailgate!

Girl Scouts have the best deal in town for the December 8 Jaguars vs. Chargers game — only $30 per ticket.

Who doesn’t love free Girl Scout cookies?

Plus, every ticket purchased through the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council website comes with a free box of Girl Scout cookies— a win-win!

Your ticket purchase also includes a donation to Girl Scouts of Gateway Council to provide programming and opportunities to girls in North Florida, including over 3,500 girls living in underserved communities.

Want tickets in the Jags 200 section? Click here for an exclusive offer and select Girl Scouts of Gateway Council as your charity of choice.

To purchase tickets, click here.

Jags need more balance

The Jaguars seemed to be in a position to make a decisive move toward the playoffs. They were well-rested after their bye week, quarterback Nick Foles was returning, D.J. Chark was continuing to emerge as a top receiver, and Leonard Fournette is a dual-threat out of the offensive backfield.

Despite any advantage they may have had, the Jaguars took a 33-13 beating at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts. Foles threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns, while Chark caught eight balls for 104 yards and both Jacksonville touchdowns.

D.J. Chark Jr. is performing at an elite level.

At the same time, the Jaguars rushed the ball only nine times, a franchise record low, for only 29 yards. Fournette carried the ball only eight times for 23 yards, something head coach Doug Marrone self-analyzed afterward.

“That was my mistake,” Marrone said. “That was a big mistake by me. I thought we needed to score points in a quicker fashion.”

After Indianapolis increased a three-point halftime lead to 17 in the third quarter, Jacksonville put the running game back in the box. Marrone pledged “to be more balanced” between run and pass going forward.

Even a strong passing attack could not overcome shortcomings on defense. The Jaguars gave up 264 rushing yards, the second straight game giving up 200. Both Marlon Mack (109) and Jonathan Williams (116) topped the 100-yard mark.

Marrone said his defense is anxious to make plays, but that sometimes leads to missing the basics.

“When they start pressing, everyone’s trying to guess, or trying to make plays,” Marrone said. “We just need to get back on track and get a stop.”

This Sunday, the Jaguars face their third straight division opponent away from TIAA Bank Stadium when they challenge the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. An old nemesis awaits in the name of running back Derrick Henry, who is among the leaders in rushing.

In their most recent trip to Nashville last December, Henry ran around and through the Jags defense on the way to a 99-yard touchdown, paving the way for a 30-9 rout. Jacksonville has not won at Nissan Stadium since 2013.

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