A senior staffer for Mayor Lenny Curry, when asked if his boss had “evolved” on a specific issue, asked if our reporter was “Darwinian.”
The jury is still out on the latter question. Still, those looking for Curry’s evolution need only consider Tuesday’s news conference, in which the second-term Republican renounced five years of opposition to LGBT-rights legislation he finally signed this week.
“I signed the current bill,” the Mayor noted. “Given where I am today, about two years ago, I should have signed the bill.”
“I signed it. It’s law. I’ll do what I have to do to protect it,” he added.
When the Human Rights Ordinance expansion was passed in 2017, Curry, a former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, let the bill become law without his signature, contending the legislation was not necessary because the city didn’t discriminate.
However, now the legislation is part of the Mayor’s legacy, one that now includes what seemed improbable not too long ago: the removal of Confederate monuments.
Other issues have gotten hotter, including police violence against black men and that old standby, the “broken promises of Consolidation.” Those are harder changes to make.
But a Mayor who spent years avoiding easy policy wins has finally figured out, in his second term, that it’s better to lead from in front than behind.
A group of doctors warns against the Republican National Convention coming to Jacksonville … at least without significant safety precautions.
The Committee to Protect Medicare wants “safeguards” to protect people attending the event, and to protect the people at large from the confluence of tens of thousands of people onto Jacksonville.
“COVID-19 is making a second surge in Florida, proving that this pandemic is still with us. The rising number of cases coinciding with [an] easing of social distancing measures indicates that COVID-19 is capable of returning aggressively when we let our guard down,” the committee writes.
Also advised are testing, masks and other precautions.
“Physicians and public health experts all agree that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and Gov. Ron DeSantis has a duty to take every precaution to keep people safe, especially at crowded events like the Republican National Convention,” said Dr. Leo Alonso, an emergency medicine physician from Jacksonville.
“All the data we have tells us that basic safety measures can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks and maintaining personal distancing of at least 6 feet. While we understand that many Floridians and Americans are ready to put COVID-19 behind us, the rise in infections and deaths reminds us that COVID-19 is not done with us yet, and we must redouble our vigilance.”
It will take extensive logistical planning to handle the influx of party faithful planning to attend the Republican Party Convention in late August, and the Jacksonville Aviation Authority is already shifting into action.
The JAA announced this week they are preparing all of the city’s airports to brace for the onslaught of what promises to be tens of thousands of Republicans descending on Jacksonville between Aug. 24 -27 for President Donald Trump’s formal nomination. The city’s central air hub, Jacksonville International Airport, along with Cecil, Jacksonville Executive at Craig and Herlong airports are all undergoing modifications to handle the anticipated large number of travelers.
“JAA has begun to undertake an aggressive planning process to prepare for the 2020 RNC with the airlines, TSA, terminal concessionaires, rental car companies and local, state [and] federal law enforcement agencies,” JAA officials said in a statement Tuesday.
JAA is also advising all travelers coming to Jacksonville for the convention to be aware of the agency’s new program called “JAX Airport Cares,” which incorporates multiple safety measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus at the hubs. That includes extensive deep cleanings of all public areas in terminals, hand sanitizer posted throughout the facilities and screens between patrons and airport staff at all counters, among other measures. JAA is advising convention travelers to visit the JAA website jaxairportcares.com for detailed precautions.
Additional information will be posted for airport measures as the convention approaches.
“Authority staff understands that the first and last impression many will have of the region will be at JAA-managed airports and will endeavor to make it an excellent experience,” the JAA statement said.
Lawson gets boost
Good news for U.S. Rep. Al Lawson: he has yet another primary opponent after a circuit court ruled that the Division of Elections was wrong to have disqualified opponent LaShonda Holloway.
The Division initially ruled that Holloway, a Jacksonville Democrat, was ineligible due to failure to timely submit her check.
But the Second Judicial Circuit sided with Holloway, saying that the “pandemic was an extraordinary circumstance” that precluded her finding out that her check was improperly notated until it was too late for her to submit a check to cure the defect. The dropbox used to submit election paperwork, as she noted in May, was not appropriately monitored, and she should have been given more time.
Lawson, who has roughly $200,000 on hand, will face two Jacksonville candidates in the August primary. Holloway, who has yet to file fundraising, is one. The second, Albert Chester, has roughly $40,000 on hand.
Lawson’s district straddles I-10 from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, and has been competitive in the Democratic primary to a degree. He defeated indicted Corrine Brown in 2016 and thumped former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in 2018.
Neither Chester nor Holloway, who finished third in that 2016 race, have the political operations or the name recognition of those two.
In recent days, concern has risen proportionately with the rise in the number of positive tests for COVID-19, including Florida. Many point to the surge in tests conducted around the state, while others speak of open beaches and a gradual reopening of businesses.
While calls for a return to shutdowns are not ringing out, there are those favoring a scaling back of the more aggressive attempts at trying to get back to some sense of normalcy. St. Augustine Republican Michael Waltz says the media and naysayers forget the original reasons for the societal lockdowns.
“The other thing we have to remember is the left keeps “moving the goalposts,” Waltz said on Fox News earlier this week. “The whole goal of the shutdown was to flatten the curve, open up hospitals’ capacity, and to get that PPE (personal protective equipment) and that other equipment into place. That is absolutely in place now, and we cannot just go back to another shutdown.”
Waltz acknowledged the increase in positive tests, which he said “the mainstream media is breathlessly reporting,” but pointed to the increasing amount of testing, among other factors, as a critical reason for the spikes.
“I’m focused on hospitalizations, I’m focused on [the] death rate, and the other thing the media does is they treat all of Florida like it’s South Florida,” adding the death rate is five times greater than North Florida.
According to the Florida Department of Health statistics, Duval, Nassau, Clay and St. Johns County account for less than 100 of the 3,000 deaths throughout Florida. At the same time, the big three counties of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade are responsible for slightly more than half that total. The number of positive tests in the region totals around 3,000 of the 80,000 cases statewide.
Waltz cited figures from DeSantis claiming hospitalizations are down by 13% in Miami-Dade and by 50% in Jacksonville.
“That’s really the number to focus on,” Waltz said.
Though Trump is down in most national polls to Joe Biden, if boat rallies won elections, the incumbent would be in for a Reagan 1984 style landslide.
Regional Republicans celebrated the President’s birthday with a so-called “flotilla” last weekend, an event which, like their previous one, got massive coverage locally and beyond.
Esther Byrd, the wife of House District 11 Republican incumbent Rep. Cord Byrd, said: “it’s all about patriotism.”
“We love our country; we get frustrated about the negativity. We do what we can, and we wave our flags and sing ‘God Bless America’ together.”
Byrd is running for his third term in the Florida House, and his likely general election opponent bashed the flotillas.
“Cord Byrd has chosen flotillas over Floridians. Instead of working toward an end to systemic racism or helping the hundreds of thousands of Floridians waiting on relief from our broken unemployment system, my opponent is spending his time organizing flotillas to soothe Donald Trump’s ego. It’s time to cut the cord on a leader who has failed us,” said Democrat Joshua Hicks.
Hicks had a strong May fundraising report, but Byrd has almost a 3-1 edge in hard money ($46,536 to $16,914). The incumbent, running in a red district, has another $28,000 in a political committee.
Americans for Prosperity, the Koch network-founded libertarian/conservative political action group, likes what it sees from the Florida Legislature.
Its most recent legislative scorecard includes high marks for more than just the usual suspect Republicans.
For 2020, two self-styled conservative Democrats scored A ratings — including Rep. Kim Daniels of Jacksonville.
Daniels faces a primary, backed by establishment Democrats from throughout the region who question her fidelity to party principles.
Meanwhile, conservatives have swooped in defending Daniels, via donations, with political committees linked to Step Up for Students and Reps. Paul Renner and Travis Cummings both backing her.
Daniels has the fundraising edge over opponent Angie Nixon, ahead of the primary in August in House District 14.
Members of the Jacksonville City Council pressed Sheriff Mike Williams on body camera footage Monday, a newly relevant topic in light of unreleased footage from police-involved shootings and a national focus on police violence.
What comes of this? That’s anyone’s guess, as ultimately, the release of the footage is contingent on the process in the State Attorney’s office. For now, it’s an aspirational goal to expedite time frames for those out-of-the-sunshine investigations.
Williams, dealing with the “defund the police” calls like every other lawman in America, panned the concept, WJCT reports.
“Defunding of law enforcement agencies is probably the worst policy I could ever imagine,” Williams said. “I mean, if you talk about really wanting to disproportionately impact communities of color, that is exactly one way to do it.”
“I have less police officers in this agency than I did 10 years ago … I would agree there’s things that need to be addressed in terms of funding different types of programs or services in the community, but I don’t think that needs to come from — or at the expense of — law enforcement,” Williams said.
Nassau ‘extortion’ fails
It seems we’re finally getting some answers to questions about the dispute between Raydient Places + Properties and Nassau County. The Circuit Court of the 4th Judicial District weighed in on June 10 regarding the argument of who is responsible for funding and maintaining parks within the East Nassau Community Planning Area (ENCPA).
Circuit Judge James Daniel granted partial summary judgment for Count VI in favor of Raydient and the ENCPA, stating “the obligation to comply with levels of service for parks and recreational facilities under the Comprehensive Plan remains with Nassau County and the BOCC.”
The impetus for this lawsuit: Nassau claimed Raydient agreed to fund construction and maintenance for all civil facilities at the penalty of losing further development rights within the ENCPA. They claimed Raydient had reneged on this promise, hurting taxpayers.
The county then attempted to wage a “war” against Raydient.
In February 2018, five Commissioners, along with then-County Attorney Mike Mullin (now County Attorney and County Manager), then-County Manager Shanea Jones (now Shanea Jones Stankiewicz) and other county employees, traveled, stayed and met together in Tallahassee, “in an attempt to defeat a proposed amendment to a state sector plan statute which the county believed would benefit landowners and developers like the Plaintiff … Commissioners met together outside of the Sunshine and discussed how they could exact revenge on Plaintiffs for having supported the legislative amendment, including plans to launch negative media campaigns, suspending development approvals, and enacting ordinances to target Plaintiffs’ property for increased taxes.”
While there isn’t an exact dollar figure yet, it’s clear Nassau County spent a lot of taxpayer money mostly dragging their feet on what they should have been doing all along. From legal fees to the public relations consultant, they spent how many hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting something where the law and facts were not on their side?
Jacksonville-based Suddath Companies has acquired a commercial technology planning company.
Suddath announced the merger this month with Phase Integration. The acquisition gives a broader reach for Suddath, which is primarily focused on relocation and moving services.
Phase Integration was founded in 2016 and provides consulting and project management. The acquisition will allow Suddath to venture more into workplace design.
“The market is thirsty for smart, connected, and technologically-enabled workplaces,” said Mark Scullion, president of Suddath Workplace Solutions. “This acquisition will allow us to bring strategic value to our clients much earlier in the project life cycle to support their IT [information technology] infrastructure and workplace technology needs.”
It’s the second notable acquisition for Suddath in as many years. The company bought Perdue in early 2019. Perdue is a workplace furniture design company. Phase Integration will be part of those Perdue locations in Jacksonville and Tallahassee.
“As a leader in full-service commercial technology solutions, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to become part of the Suddath organization,” said Jay Morris, president and founder of Phase Integration. “With Perdue as a leading North Florida office furniture dealership and Suddath as America’s largest and most innovative commercial mover, we are honored to be part of the combined organization.”
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority obtained a $942,624 grant for the development of a transportation line on the Northside of the city.
The Federal Transit Administration’s Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development provided the funding that will help pay for further development of the Green Line JTA project that is part of the First Coast Flyer Bus network. The bus line runs about 10 miles from the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center downtown to Armsdale Park-n-Ride location near Interstate 295. It’s been operational since 2014.
“We are thankful to the FTA for its support of our TOD [Transit Oriented Development] efforts in Jacksonville and for seeing the positive impacts this type of investment can bring to this part of our community,” said Nat Ford, CEO of JTA.
It will take about two years to complete the Transit-Oriented Development plans for a total cost of $1.18 million. JTA is kicking in match funding of $235,656.
It the second Transit-Oriented Development grant the JTA received from the Federal Transit Administration in the past two years. In 2018, the JTA received a $1-million grant for the FTA for the development of an Ultimate Urban Circulator program.
Kaepernick to Jax?
With NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s recent admission that the league improperly handled the practice of players kneeling during the national anthem, attention returned to former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began the protests. Goodell admitted fault for “not listening” and went on to “encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”
Speculation has begun on a possible return for Kaepernick, and if that were to happen, where would he play? At age 32 and out of the league since 2016, his options may be limited, but the Jaguars are mentioned as one possibility.
Jacksonville is on the list due to the lack of experience among quarterbacks currently on the roster. Starter Gardner Minshew is only in his second year, backup Mike Glennon has started only nine games during the past five seasons, while seldom-used Josh Dobbs joins rookie Jake Luton on the roster.
Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013 and the NFC Championship Game the following year but struggled the subsequent two seasons before leaving the 49ers and not to be signed again. The NFL arranged a scouting showcase for Kaepernick in Atlanta in 2019, but it fell apart on the day it was to take place.
This week, Goodell encouraged NFL teams to sign Kaepernick. For those reluctant to sign him in the past due to the controversy surrounding him, recent events could change the dynamic.
The Jaguars have not spoken about Kaepernick, but after signing Glennon to a three-year, $45 million contract May 8, it would be hard to imagine bringing in another free-agent quarterback. If the season does take place as planned, a major injury at the quarterback position in Jacksonville or any NFL city could possibly result in Kaepernick’s phone ringing.
Could a 904 area code be on his caller ID?