Time was when this was to be the Republican National Convention week in Jacksonville.
The expectation was a $100 million economic impact.
But, as we know, none of that happened.
President Donald Trump pulled the event, claiming coronavirus concerns drove the move, but all indications were that logistics were not working out.
Ironically, since the convention events were yanked from Jacksonville, the positivity rate for the coronavirus has come down, below 5% some days of late.
Does that mean Jacksonville should have hosted the convention after all?
It depends on how much you value economic impact.
July unemployment was up regionally, to 8.8%, suggesting that many of those who need jobs aren’t finding them.
Of course, the RNC would have been an example of an event where locals shouldered the risks and the burdens, such as security and the likelihood of property damages and so forth. At the same time, the bed tax money went to Amelia Island.
But jobs are jobs.
The nonevent, for better or worse, takes the heat off a city struggling with a lot of other issues that are less negotiable than trying to pull off a mammoth undertaking in just over two months.
Like so many things (the JEA sale push and the buy-up and teardown of the Landing, to name two), the audacious goals set have fallen fallow, setting up a queue of variables that could, at this point, factor into the narrative of the 2023 mayoral race.
Jacksonville’s Ax Handle Saturday, 60 years ago today, was an unspeakable act of racial violence, but until Jacksonville’s play for the Republican National Convention was not widely discussed outside the city itself.
The RNC push has been abandoned, but the delayed historical focus is finally being visited on one of the most brutal days in city history, with London’s Guardian newspaper spotlighting the historical atrocity.
“If Donald Trump had his way, he would have been in the Florida city on Thursday, not to commemorate the 60th anniversary of an infamous day dubbed Ax Handle Saturday, but to accept the Republican nomination for president at his party’s national convention. The coronavirus pandemic ultimately forced Trump to retreat from those plans, and almost certainly staved off massive protests. But his desire to be in Jacksonville on the anniversary of one of the darkest days in the city’s racially troubled history was controversial.”
While much of the article was a rehash, the take of former Jacksonville Sheriff Nat Glover (an ally of Mayor Lenny Curry on many issues) on why the RNC was a lousy bet is new.
“Ordinarily a convention would be an opportunity for the city to show what it is made of, it would have been a good thing. But them coming at a time that was a commemoration of tragic events here, that had racial implications, it would have been awful,” Glover said.
Biden weighs in
Jacksonville commemorated the 60th anniversary of one of the most shocking episodes of racial violence in the city’s history Thursday, and one of two presidential candidates acknowledged that it happened.
And no, it wasn’t the one who was planning to hold the Republican National Convention here this week.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden issued a statement recognizing Jacksonville’s infamous Ax Handle Saturday, placing the racist mob attack 60 years ago in the context of today’s civil rights struggles.
“Sixty years ago today, a group of young leaders from the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP staged a sit-in at segregated lunch counters in Jacksonville, Florida, where they were met by an angry white mob wielding ax handles and baseball bats. This tragic event, now known as Ax Handle Saturday, leaves a lasting mark on Jacksonville, as both a testament to the progress that has been made and a reminder that we must always stand up for what’s right,” Biden wrote Thursday.
The former Vice President noted that the fight against racism is far from over.
“Today, we continue their fight against injustice and for equality — for Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and far too many more. These tragic murders, and brutal acts of excessive violence against individuals like Jacob Blake, have stirred Americans to speak out and demand change,” Biden said.
The race in Florida’s 4th Congressional District is getting real.
Democrat Donna Deegan, challenging incumbent Republican Congressman John Rutherford, warned that the “politics of personal destruction” may insinuate themselves into the race.
“Most of you have known me a long time. I think you know my heart and my values are squarely aligned with service to our community. Anyone who tells you otherwise may be a political consultant,” she tweeted.
Deegan did not say what politics of personal destruction may come into play, but Rutherford’s principal consultant is Tim Baker, and his reputation precedes him.
Baker has kept it bland so far when talking about the anticipated theater of attack.
“While Deegan has some more notoriety than previous opponents from her past work on television, she’s not well known to the voters, and her values are hopelessly out of touch with Northeast Florida,” Baker said. “I expect the voters will speak loudly and forcefully reject the liberal ideology she supports that puts political stunts over bipartisan solutions to the problems that face our region and nation.”
Gang of 68
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called the House back last weekend to vote on the Delivering for America Act. The rare Saturday vote saw the bill, designed to reverse policies instituted — but now put on hold — by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, also appropriated $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
Rutherford was one of many to blast the contents of the bill, as well as the timing of the vote and the number of Democrats who did not physically cast a vote. Many of the 68 who did not return to the Capitol voted by proxy, a process for which Republicans took Democrats to court weeks ago and are appealing an adverse decision.
“Speaker Pelosi called back Congress today for an ‘emergency’ session to consider legislation to supposedly ‘save’ the United States Postal Service,” Rutherford said in a statement. “Yet, 68 Democrats couldn’t even bother to show up. Even they know the truth — this is a political stunt designed to stoke fears and discredit the election before it happens.”
The bill passed by a vote of 273-150, with 67 of 68 Democrats casting a proxy vote in favor. Among the 23 Republicans not voting include Rutherford’s Florida colleagues Mario Diaz-Balart, Ross Spano and Greg Steube. Francis Rooney voted against the bill by proxy.
While not voting, the three Republicans all agreed with Rutherford that the bill and the Saturday session were unnecessary.
“The bill passed today writes a $25 billion check to the USPS without any stipulations on how the money is to be used,” Rutherford added. “It’s not to recoup money lost during the coronavirus, and it’s not to specifically fund the security of absentee ballots.”
The Senate is not expected to take up the legislation.
According to farmers in St. Johns County, Nikki Fried and Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
At issue: FDACS request of the St. Johns County Commission to devote $1.2 million to staffing a site in Hastings to test seasonal agriculture workers for COVID-19.
One problem as WJCT reports: there aren’t many workers to test.
“You have an ag commissioner that has not been in our area whatsoever, nor their staff,” farmer Chris Barnes said. “They should have put boots on the ground; they should have come and talked to the farmers in St. Johns County before they throw $1.2 million at something to make it look like you’re doing something that doesn’t help or fix the problem. It’s irresponsible.”
Fried hasn’t gotten much in the way of earned media regionally since her election in 2018. This particular iteration is negative, suggesting problems in whatever her 2022 race may be.
Eye of Newt
Who’s former House Speaker Newt Gingrich reading these days?
Among other authors, Newt is into the literary stylings of Sen. Aaron Bean … specifically, Bean’s push for making pandemic-spurred telehealth expansions permanent.
“Telehealth services have been vital during the pandemic, and they should continue long after the virus is gone,” Gingrich tweeted earlier this month, sharing a link to a Bean op-ed in the Florida Times-Union.
“President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order that will expand access to telehealth for millions of Americans and make permanent several of the telehealth reforms put into effect during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is great news for doctors and patients across the country — and especially here in Florida,” Bean wrote.
“Telehealth provides doctors and other health providers the flexibility to deliver quality care from anywhere. It closes the gap between those living in close proximity to hospitals and specialists and those living in more remote and rural communities. Telehealth saves time, saves money, and gives people — including older Americans and those who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus — a safer alternative to sitting in waiting rooms with other sick patients,” Bean added.
Jacksonville’s chief administrative officer thinks conversations with the Mayor are covered under executive privilege, but that claim is getting scrutiny, reports WOKV.
The questions have emerged around conversations Brian Hughes and Curry had about JEA, specifically regarding the sale and the ascension of Aaron Zahn to CEO.
“I am very concerned about the depositions that are coming before us where they might try to now state executive privilege, because, as you said, it was always represented to us that this Mayor and his administration were not making a decision about privatizing the JEA. That was coming from the JEA independently of the administration. And now it appears that may not be the case,” Council Member Randy DeFoor said.
General Counsel Jason Gabriel has urged the council members to petition the Mayor’s Office to relinquish the claim of executive privilege, a limited construct that likely won’t matter to federal investigators looking into the same matters.
Jacksonville-based Crowley Solutions company is delving deeper into working with the U.S. Department of Defense, providing more services in the technology sector.
The logistics giant is branching out into delivering technology hardware to military service personnel around the globe. Crowley is providing support services with defense contractors and the semiconductor industry that produce technology applications and hardware.
Crowley agreed to a contract with the Defense Freight Transportation Services under U.S. Transportation Command. The accord covers surface transportation services across the continental U.S., Alaska and Canada. The deal also calls for Crowley to deliver some rail services as well.
“The expansion into the technology sector reflects how the (Defense Freight Transportation Services) program under Crowley can bring value and reliability to other Department of Defense agencies,” said Patrick Wallace, Crowley vice president of government supply chain services. “We appreciate the trust the Defense Department has shown in Crowley’s ability to tailor and execute quality, specialized services with high transparency and flexibility.”
The contract was announced this month.
“Knowing the DOD had unique supply chain requirements, Crowley collaborated with the military to design and execute specialized services that meet the needs of the microelectronics agency. The result was a full-service, dependable solution that gives the DOD visibility from end-to-end in the transportation of cargo,” said David Touzinsky, Crowley’s director of customer accounts, who assisted in the expansion.
Crowley has contracted with the DOD on other projects for years.
JAXPORT Chief Operating Officer Frederick Wong Jr. is among the newest members of Leadership Florida Cornerstone Class 39.
Leadership Florida, the statewide mentoring program that offers nine-month Cornerstone Classes, connects emerging leaders from around the state to educate and inspire them to work for a better Florida.
Wong is one of 55 members of the 2020-2021 Cornerstone Class, which will focus on issues critical to Florida. Featured themes include the state’s history, demography, diversities, challenges, and opportunities. The class also provides mentoring with leading experts.
“Leadership Florida is one of the country’s most prestigious leadership development programs, and I am honored to be a part of this year’s Cornerstone Class,” Wong said. “I look forward to learning from the program’s mentors and my fellow classmates, sharing my thoughts and ideas, and working together to help build a better future for our region and state.”
As CFO, Wong oversees JAXPORT’s terminal operations, public safety and engineering departments. Wong handles major initiatives such as deepening of the Jacksonville Harbor and expansion of the port’s auto handling capacity.
Leadership Florida programs have graduated 3,100 men and women, who now serve as public servants and executives from the state’s top corporations, nonprofit groups, and agencies. To learn more about the program, click here.
Duval County middle school students now have access to learning about an environmental sustainability curriculum.
The program content is being introduced to Jacksonville middle school children through a program being launched by AT&T and Discovery Education. The content seeks to inspire local students to consider actions that sustain the environment in local communities.
The program also focuses on incorporating technology that is compatible with the environment and how the partnership will lead to a more sustainable environment.
“This collaboration marries two areas that are central to our work of being a strong corporate citizen: environmental sustainability and education,” said Charlene Lake, senior vice president of AT&T corporate social responsibility and chief sustainability officer. “Alongside Discovery Education, we are empowering students to invent the future by putting the environment first.”
The sustainability learning curriculum provides content that includes career profiles, “anywhere” classroom activities — meaning activities outside of the classroom and digital lessons online.
While Duval County schools are reaping the benefits of the new AT&T and Discovery Education curriculum, there are additional school districts that are taking part in the program. The curriculum is also being offered in the Robertson Public Schools in Springfield, Tennessee, and the Pulaski County Special School District in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Jaguars and social justice
The Jacksonville Jaguars have created an executive position to lead the organization’s social responsibility mission.
The Associated Press is reporting that the organization is naming T-Neisha Tate as its vice president of social responsibility and impact. She is responsible for directing the team’s desire to emphasize respect and to inspire and unify players, staff and fans to make a positive, meaningful impact on the community.
Team president Mark Lamping says the Jaguars “have placed strong emphasis on social responsibility and racial equality, and the creation of this position is taking that commitment to an entirely new and appropriate level.”
Team owner Shad Kahn is the NFL’s only minority owner.
Tate grew up in Jacksonville and has worked for the team for more than eight years. She had been the director of programs for the Jaguars Foundation.
Tate says she’s “humbled by the commitment the Jaguars organization has made to essential issues such as social justice and equity. I am honored to be leading the charge to better my community by leveraging the power of football.”
Jaguars feeling good
In an average year, the Jaguars and other NFL teams would be at the point of making the first roster cuts after the first two preseason games. Were it not for the cancellation of the 2020 preseason, Jacksonville would have had two games under their belt against the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But this is not a typical year, and with the devastating impact of the coronavirus, the Jaguars organization and their fans can consider themselves fortunate that a regular-season schedule is even possible. Despite the limitations placed, the National Football League is set to fully open the season on September 13, barring severe COVID-19 outbreaks.
Instead of looking back and learning from those two games, the Jaguars are into just their second full week of practicing in full pads. When deciding in July to cut the preseason, rosters were set at 80 players, leaving teams to figure out just through practice who will be among the 27 players cut before opening day.
While making some adjustments due to the situation, not everything is terrible. Coach Doug Marrone has dealt with either some injuries or players opting out of playing this season, but players are mostly healthy from the virus or other ailments.
“Last year at this time we pretty much had diagnosed 29 (head) colds, where guys have had colds or illnesses, where we had to take care of that, as compared to this year where it is only three,” Marrone said at a press briefing.
“You start looking around, and you say hey, is it the mask, or is it the hand sanitizer, or is it because we have the building clean?”
Marrone also seems convinced that the virus preparations are affecting endurance, noting players are rarely dealing with dehydration, something that usually occurs in the August heat of Florida.
“I think there’s a lot of things that maybe aren’t coming out because our concentration is so much on wearing masks, getting tested every day, whatever it is with COVID,” he added, noting that offensive tackle Ryan Pope is the only player remaining on the COVID list.
“Other than that, I feel good about the way things are going.”
The Jaguars are scheduled to host the Indianapolis Colts in the season opener on September 13.