Read ’em and weep
What to make of the poll data from the University of North Florida?
If you believe the numbers, Donald Trump won’t carry Duval County. Just 39% of voters support him.
And Duval doesn’t want the Republican National Convention either. Protests and coronavirus worry residents, for one reason or another.
Gov. Ron DeSantis?
Well, at the end of the day, he didn’t get it done in Duval in 2018 … and the poll says he’s not exactly golden in 2020.
And Mayor Lenny Curry?
Throw him some Swim Fins, because he’s underwater. One major reason: he’s hovering around 70% with Republicans and not offsetting that underperformance with Democrats and NPA voters.
Oh, sure, the critics will say fake news and fake polls.
Did you see the flotilla?
But politics is about coalition building, and Republicans need to see that the “check engine” light is on.
If they can’t talk to swing voters, it’s BluVal and President Joe Biden.
A group of Never-Trumper Republicans released its own poll this week saying Duval County residents don’t want the Republican National Convention.
Methodological concerns abound, such as an oversampling of Democrats and an overrepresentation of college graduates. Still, the numbers delineate a city divided in the wake of its most significant event since the lone Super Bowl the city hosted over a decade ago.
The RABA Research poll commissioned by Republican Voters Against Trump found 49% of those surveyed did not support Jacksonville hosting Trump’s nomination speech in August. Only 39% said they supported it.
Further, 57% said they were concerned the convention would spur a new COVID-19 outbreak while only 43% said they weren’t worried.
Given more information about the convention including both pros — that it will fill hotels and boost the economy — and cons — that it will cost the city millions, risk new infections and potentially put first responders at COVID-19 risk — 39% said they supported the convention with 52% opposing it.
No mask zone
While COVID-19 risks abound, Curry isn’t ready for a mask order, even with rates of positive tests close to 10% for days on end.
The Mayor admitted that “people in crowded bars … on crowded streets aren’t wearing masks and are ignoring social distancing.” However, Curry won’t make masks mandatory as has been done elsewhere.
“It’s not an efficient use of resources,” Curry said, even as other cities do have mask orders.
Curry noted “quite a bit of time” before the RNC, suggesting that there will be “temperature checks and other protocols,” but seemed to suggest that’s enough.
Meanwhile, some Florida Republicans say that a mask is a necessity for the RNC.
Sen. Rick Scott, who isn’t involved with the planning of the event, has said masks are a must, as the Daily Mail reports.
“‘You have to do this safely. People need to wear masks. They need to social distance. You need to do this in a manner no one gets sick,’ Scott said on CNBC Monday.
In Northwest Jacksonville’s House District 14, momentum continues to build for the challenger to incumbent Rep. Kim Daniels.
Angie Nixon, the Democrat who hopes to upend Rep. Kim Daniels, took a major step in that direction between June 1 and 12.
Nixon, who was an aide to former Rep. Mia Jones, raised $26,146 during that period … a sum that pushed her over Daniels in the all-important cash on hand metric.
The challenger has just over $60,000 on hand. Daniels, who has raised $63,750, has just under $50,000 to spend.
Nixon has a lot of endorsements for a Democratic primary. From JaxBiz (the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce political committee) and the Jacksonville Brotherhood of Firefighters to national groups like People for the American Way, the challenger to the embattled incumbent has all the outside help she could want.
Daniels, meanwhile, seems to be struggling with how to respond to the most concerted political challenge she has faced since Republican Anna Brosche defeated her in her 2015 Jacksonville City Council reelection bid.
Jacksonville’s Andrew Jackson statue continues to be vandalized with red spray paint, a signal that it may be decision time for city leaders regarding the edifice.
“Remember May 28, 1830,” Tuesday morning’s paint job read, a reference to the former President’s signing of the Indian Removal Act. This genocidal edict pushed Native American tribes onto the Trail of Tears, where many who started the journey West died en route.
Historical reconsideration, legal and otherwise, continues in Jacksonville. Legislation has been filed to rename Hemming Park and Confederate Park, both names associated with the Lost Cause. And the city has removed one Confederate monument, with more to come.
Meanwhile, in St. Augustine, a narrow 3-2 vote in favor of removing a Confederate monument was cast Monday.
That action elicited copious public comment, with a slim majority backing the proposal to move the monument.
The spring protest movement has created a long hot summer. Expect continued pressure, legal and otherwise, to remove monuments of historical figures whose actions don’t meet the current moment.
The Jacksonville City Council continues to investigate the push to sell JEA, but its efforts are frustrated by the federal grand jury inquiry into the same subject.
As the Jacksonville Daily Record reports, former Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa declined an invitation to testify, as his lawyer informed the city by email.
“Until the grand jury investigation is concluded, Mr. Mousa respectfully declines your request to provide a sworn statement.”
Mousa’s contention is that testifying would interfere with the grand jury investigation. The committee is disinclined to issue subpoenas, meanwhile, meaning that things are probably just about wrapped.
“No one’s going to want to come before our committee under those circumstances. Nobody,” Committee member Randy DeFoor said. “At that point, we have no power whatsoever.”
Business support tallied
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has announced their annual scorecard that grades all members of the House and Senate. Jacksonville area representatives scored well in the survey that analyzes votes as they relate to the Chamber’s position, as well as leadership and bipartisan scores.
John Rutherford of Jacksonville earned a score of 93 out of 100, the fourth-highest score among the 27 House members of the Florida delegation. Out of the 18 selected votes, he was on the opposing end of the Chamber position only once, giving him a legislative score of 94. He earned a 95 for leadership and 76 for bipartisanship, each worth 10%, which led to the final number.
Michael Waltz of St. Augustine tallied a 90, which earned him a sixth-place ranking within the delegation. Waltz also received a 94 for legislation, which accounts for 80% of the final score, a 91 for leadership, and 58 for bipartisanship.
Al Lawson, who represents portions of Jacksonville, earned a legislative score of 67, based on voting the Chamber’s way 12 times out of 18. His leadership score of 76 and bipartisanship score of 75 produces a final score of 68, the third-highest among Florida Democrats.
The U.S. Chamber is the most prominent pro-business lobby in the nation. Members range from small businesses, local chambers of commerce, leading industry associations, and large corporations.
A seaside tradition that was put on hold in St. Augustine Beach due to coronavirus returns July 1.
The Wednesday Pier Farmers Market at the St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier finally returns at the beginning of next month. As with many activities and events that were scrapped due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Farmers Market was also postponed in late March.
The Farmers Market has taken place for years in the parking lot of the pier at 350 A1A Beach Boulevard in St. Augustine Beach. The weekly event runs from 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays as it returns July 1.
The weekly market usually attracts hundreds of visitors but also dozens of vendors selling their produce, artwork and merchandise.
While St. Johns County officials say they’re enthusiastic about the return of the oceanfront market, there will be multiple stipulations regarding coronavirus precautions that will need to be followed when it gets going again.
All vendors are required to wear face masks. Each vendor will be required to be at least 10 feet from other vendor tents and tables for sales. Vendors will also be required to provide markers indicating 6 feet of space between the vendor and customers.
Customer traffic going into the Farmers Market will be directed to flow in one direction only. Customers will not be allowed to consume food during the event, and any purchases of food must go off-site.
In recognition of Juneteenth, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) used color lights to illuminate the Acosta Bridge.
Starting at dusk Friday, the bridge was lit red, white and blue.
“Juneteenth is another reminder of how far we have come and how far we still have to go to ensure equality for every American, especially during the historic moment we are experiencing today,” said JTA Board Chair Kevin Holzendorf.
Friday night was the first time the lights were let to commemorate this holiday, beginning a new tradition at the JTA.
“The JTA is proud to honor the memory of those who fought for equality and civil rights,” said JTA CEO Nathaniel Ford. “Hopefully, this simple display will inspire people to come together to solve the issues we collectively face today.”
The Acosta Bridge lighting project is scheduled to be completed ahead of the July 4 weekend. The new LED system is programmable and allows for either static or multicolored displays.
$3 million in charity
Northeast Florida nonprofit organizations have been getting much-needed help during the coronavirus outbreak to the tune of $3.3 million from the First Coast Relief Fund.
The charitable organization exceeded the $3 million mark in contributions this month. All funds go to help more than 85 nonprofit organizations on the First Coast deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The First Coast Relief Fund is an umbrella organization born out of a collaboration between the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida, United Way of Northeast Florida and United Way of St. Johns County.
Kathleen Shaw, a member of the Relief Fund’s grants committee, said the contributions were sorely needed.
“By far, the greatest need we’ve seen to this point is for food and financial assistance,” Shaw said. “We have been able to make grants to some of the big regional food suppliers …. But we’ve also made grants to many smaller organizations so they can acquire food from the regional food banks and get it into their clients’ hands as soon as possible.”
Population segments that are most vulnerable to contracting coronavirus have remained a priority for the grant distribution by the Relief Fund, such as the elderly.
“With the resources provided by the First Coast Relief Fund, we are able to help older adults with food, supplies, mental health counseling through telehealth, telephone reassurance and financial assistance,” said Linda Levin, CEO of ElderSource, Northeast Florida’s Area Agency on Aging.
COVID-19 Health & safety
St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller has selected Flagler Health+ as its HealthySite+ solution — promoting a safe and healthy environment for employees. The program provides complete COVID-19 exposure prevention, testing, and management with enhanced security and HIPAA compliance.
Powered by the Healthfully platform, HealthySite+ features essential technology and health services to maximize safety and care, including:
— Daily self-monitoring and attestation
— Telehealth physician visits and lab orders
— Alerts and notifications
— Testing and lab results
— Secure messaging
— Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing and proximity reporting
— Exposure management and compliance reporting
— Isolation & quarantine support communities
— Employee and student education
— Works on any platform: Web, iOS, Android
First, through a HIPAA compliant mobile app, employees learn about the importance of self-monitoring and safe behaviors. They answer a few quick questions daily to attest that they are not exhibiting symptoms and/or have not exposed to someone with COVID-19. If the survey algorithm determines that an individual needs a COVID-19 test, a provider will first conduct an online visit. If the provider confirms that an analysis is necessary, the individual will be tested quickly at a convenient location.
Those who test positive receive information about self-isolation, have access to online care and check-ins, as well as virtual support groups, all within the safe and secure application. Employers will be notified of the positive test and receive a contact tracing report.
The employer dashboard also tracks compliance with self-monitoring, status alerts, and return to work or class notices for those who are in the 14-day self-isolation period.
Initial season remembered
The Jacksonville Jaguars, like many other sports franchises, are dealing with getting training camp and the season underway as the COVID-19 virus lingers. Twenty-five years ago, the team was making preparations for taking the field for the first time, but without health risks.
That fall marked the first time three of the franchise’s most legendary players took the field together. Offensive guard Tony Boselli was the team’s first-ever draft choice, while Mark Brunell came to the team following a trade with the Green Bay Packers.
The Jaguars signed wide receiver Jimmy Smith as a free agent after spending two injury-plagued seasons in Dallas and being cut by Philadelphia. Credit Ron Hill, the man coach Tom Coughlin hired as head of pro personnel, with seeing something in Smith, but the now-unemployed Smith was underwhelmed at the thought of heading to Jacksonville.
“I didn’t want to go to an expansion team, they were considered second-tier,” Smith said. “To be honest, I didn’t want to go down there with a bunch of misfits because I didn’t see myself as that.”
Twenty-five years later, the expectations for the 2020 Jaguars are not that much higher than they were in 1995. The first edition of the team, under the ownership of Wayne Weaver, won only four of 16 games but set a record by qualifying for the playoffs and reaching the AFC championship game the following year in only their second year of existence.
The foundation was set for the development of a solid franchise that went 14-2 and again made it to the conference title game in 1999. Smith was among the league’s top receivers, Brunell was efficiently running the offense and Boselli was developing into a Hall of Fame-caliber player. Fred Taylor and James Stewart had joined the team to produce a powerful running game.
Brunell, Boselli and Smith, along with Weaver and his wife Delores make up four of the five honorees within the Pride of the Jaguars and were there for that first game. Taylor, who exploded onto the scene in 1998, is the other.
No matter how many games the Jaguars manage to win this year, building a foundation like the one started by three superstars 25 years ago would offset any shortcomings in 2020. Current owner Shad Khan and Jaguars fans would likely agree.