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Democratic campaigns have been stingy with the big names when it comes to Northeast Florida again this cycle, but the last week saw the Joe Biden campaign step up its surrogate game.
Saturday saw former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams do three stops in the Jacksonville market. Monday was even more momentous, with Biden’s running mate at the University of North Florida for a drive-thru voter mobilization event.
Attendance was capped at just 150 cars, but the blare of the horns greeted Sen. Kamala Harris, with the crowd’s enthusiasm not dampened by persistent rain.
Harris stopped off at an early voting location, where she answered reporters’ hard questions, confirming that she was indeed “excited” to be in Florida for early voting.
The Democratic nominee is not the only VP candidate in town. The Donald Trump campaign announced a visit by VP Mike Pence on Saturday, part of 12 stops in seven days for the Republican second-in-command.
Big Al in the game
In the closing days of the presidential campaign, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson is also doing his share of heavy lifting.
In the rain at the Harris rally Monday, Lawson hyped the crowd. Less than 24 hours before that, Lawson participated in a call with Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina. They made the case that Biden would be better for rural voters, a talking point that the candidate has left mainly to surrogates.
There is a difference between the Lawson of 2020 and the Lawson of 2016. He seems to be more comfortable with the realities of his uniquely-drawn district that lumps together Jacksonville and more rural and conservative areas to its west.
While he faced a primary in 2020, it wasn’t the same as 2018, when a former Jacksonville Mayor gave him a scare. Al Lawson was given a challenge: to figure out CD 5. And while he may not be Corrine Brown in that Jax-centric way she had, he’s still a player in what will again be a Democratic majority in the House, at the very least.
Reigning in ‘censorship’
Republicans in Congress are furious at Twitter, Facebook and social media platforms they allege are silencing Republicans and conservatives. A group of House Republicans introduced legislation that would strip away certain liability protections from social media platforms.
Another bill would allow Americans to file lawsuits against “Big Tech” for “censoring political speech” and “suppressing content.” The Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act is sponsored by North Carolina Republican Ted Budd with St. Augustine Republican Michael Waltz among the six co-sponsors.
“As we’ve seen (last) week, Big Tech’s unlimited power and lopsided content policies are biased and unfairly stifling conservative voices,” Waltz said in a news release. “It’s time for Congress to take a look at Section 230 and clarify the statute to ensure these companies are acting in good faith — and if they’re not, they should be held accountable.”
The bill also prohibits Big Tech companies from receiving Section 230 immunity unless they update their service terms to operate under a clear good faith standard. If companies violate those terms, they would be subject to $5,000 fines, damages and attorney fees.
Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley introduced the companion bill in that chamber. Sen. Marco Rubio is among this bill’s four co-sponsors.
Back to school
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran visited Jacksonville Tuesday, celebrating the administration’s response to COVID-19.
The Governor was not at a public school such as Fletcher or Douglas Anderson High Schools, as both schools are closed because of coronavirus clusters.
Indeed, he didn’t even know they were closed when reporters asked.
Instead, he was at the Jacksonville Classical Academy, a charter school in Mixon Town affiliated with conservative Hillsdale College, an endeavor funded by big-time GOP donor Ambassador John Rood.
The Governor has been undaunted by negative stories on school children and the novel coronavirus, saying that the young are not susceptible like older people are and calling opponents of his position “flat earthers.“
Remarks Tuesday did not deviate from these parameters, with DeSantis lauding charter and private schools for leading the way on school reopening, despite objections from the public school teachers union.
And despite closed schools in the same city.
State Attorney Melissa Nelson trumpeted data-driven reforms in a Tampa Bay Times article with another state attorney, Andrew Warren.
“The ardent collection and use of data to inform policy is one such principle in which government and, specifically, a prosecutor’s office is often limited,” the two lament.
To that end, they are using so-called Prosecutorial Performance Indicators (PPIs) to expand metrics.
“Traditional metrics such as case counts, trial numbers, and conviction rates create a narrow viewpoint of how prosecutors’ offices are understood. These new indicators will tell us — and the public — about our work’s quality and impact in a more in-depth and broader way. And they will help us answer questions that are critical to our roles in the criminal justice system.”
Among the questions: “Are we addressing serious crime by reducing recidivism? How quickly are we contacting victims of crime whose cases are with us for prosecutorial decisions? How efficiently are we processing cases? Are we treating defendants, regardless of their race or ethnicity, the same as we handle and resolve their cases?”
Jacksonville city officials seek reimbursement for more than $150,000 in expenses for law enforcement costs, consulting fees, and other funds spent preparing to host the National Republican Convention that never took place in the city.
In August, Jacksonville’s festivities to formally reanoint Trump as the Republican nominee for President were scuttled because of concerns over the coronavirus.
City officials told the Florida Times-Union that the 2020 Jacksonville Host Committee had assured them that it would be repaid.
Jordan Elsbury, chief of staff for Curry, said the city and the host committee have been “working together over the past couple of weeks to resolve any balances the city had.”
He said the RNC assured the city of “timely payment.”
Better late than never
If any Democrats were waiting for the President of the Jacksonville City Council to endorse Biden before voting for him, they now have their greenlight.
Tommy Hazouri released an endorsement statement Tuesday for the Democratic presidential nominee.
Hazouri, who ran a co-branded reelection campaign with Republican Curry last year, said he was “incredibly excited and honored to endorse Joe and Kamala, and I would be remiss if I did not.”
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will have Duval residents’ backs, fighting for issues like health care, quality education for all, bringing back the economy for Main Street instead of Wall Street, and facing the coronavirus pandemic with a plan to build our nation back better from the devastation Trump’s mismanagement has caused,” Hazouri contended.
New candidate emerges
Levy County Democratic State Committeewoman Stacey Peters is expected to be the replacement nominee in Senate District 5, running against Republican Jennifer Bradley.
The winner in the heavily-Republican district in North-Central Florida will replace the termed-out incumbent, Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley.
Peters will stand in for Melina Rayna Svanhild Farley-Barratt, the Democratic nominee for the seat who died last week. Farley-Barratt had been a prominent transgender activist who served as legislative director for the National Organization for Women’s Florida chapter.
Sources at the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida said Peters had been selected by party leaders in the district as a replacement Monday night.
Since ballots have already been printed for the Nov. 3 election, Farley-Barratt’s name will still appear on the ballot. But all votes cast for the Democrat will be awarded to Peters.
Shipping companies using the port out of Jacksonville now have additional access to South America.
The Jacksonville Port Authority announced this month it is adding more service through the container carrier company Ocean Network Express. That company now provides service to the West Coast of South America. The additional service adds six new ports of call along the South American coast. The container carrier has added Rodman, Panama, as a new port of call on its U.S. East Coast Service.
The addition opens up carrier connections from Jacksonville to Guayaquil, Ecuador, Paita and Callao, in Peru; Buenaventura, Colombia and Puerto Angamos, Lirquén, San Antonio and Coronel, in Chile.
“We continue to work with our ocean carrier partners to expand service offerings from Jacksonville,” said JAXPORT Director of Trade Development and Rail Lisa Wheldon. “This service further connects Northeast Florida exporters, including the area’s robust forest products sector, to an important and growing segment of the global economy.”
The South American west coast additions of ports add to the JAXPORT portfolio. Jacksonville now offers access to about 140 ports across the globe. That breadth of service now includes 70 countries worldwide and continents, including Asia, Europe, South America, the Caribbean and other locales.
A helicopter crew from UF Health Jacksonville had a problem: Filter adapters, an essential part for N95 masks, were on back-order.
UF Radiology professor Travis Meyer, who serves as the director of the 3D print lab at UF Health, and TraumaOne flight services program director Tony Hayes, had an idea.
Wearing N-95s, the helicopter crew quickly learned the aircraft’s heat gets the masks wet.
“I started doing some research for some aerator respirators that are filtered,” Hayes told the Florida Times-Union.
Hayes found a company in St. Augustine that produced respirators; after getting the OK, the masks arrived and mics were installed.
“But we couldn’t get the filters in,” Hayes said. “The filters were on back-order and they didn’t know when they were going to get them in. I started doing some research online based on the filters we had at the hospital to find the adapter that matched the filters on our masks.”
The problem was the filters and mask manufacturers were different, with incompatible parts. After finding the plans through Google, Hayes contacted the information technology department, where he came upon Meyer.
Meyer used the hospital’s 3D printing lab to create a matching part.
“Dr. Meyer more than graciously accepted the project and went ahead and started printing them,” Hayes said.
St. Johns bookmobile
Mobile library access for St. Johns County residents is going to begin next month.
The St. Johns County Public Library System will begin bookmobile services in multiple locations. The program begins Nov. 4.
The service will offer a library on wheels at four locations initially. Residents can pick up books. They can also return them to the bookmobile. As with a stationary library, the bookmobile will also offer free Wi-Fi service for anyone wanting to log online for internet service.
The bookmobile services will be offered on Wednesdays and Fridays and will run through December. Library officials advise no book browsing will be allowed.
The schedule for the St. Johns County limited service of the bookmobile is:
Publix, 2845 County Road 210 West, St. Johns on Fridays from 9:30 a.m.to 11:30 a.m., Nov. 6, 13, and 20 and again Dec. 4, 11 and 18.
Publix at Murabella, 84 Tuscan Way, St. Augustine on Fridays 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Nov. 6, 13, and 20 and again Dec. 4, 11 and 18.
Publix at Nocatee Town Center, 120 Marketside Avenue, Ponte Vedra Beach, Wednesdays 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Nov. 4 and 18 and Dec. 2, 9 and 16.
Publix at Palencia Commons, 7462 U.S. 1 North, St. Augustine, Wednesdays from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., Nov. 4 and 18 and Dec. 2, 9 and 16.
Anyone wanting additional information can call 904-827-6928 or visit the county’s library website at www.sjcpls.org.
The exact source of the quote “success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan” was not thinking about the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense, but it does relate. When a team gives up slightly more than 30 points per game, fans and sports media start looking for who to blame.
It appears the long knives are out for defensive coordinator Todd Wash. Losers of five straight games, the Jaguars have given up at least 30 points in each one. The only game to fall under that total this season was on opening day when the Indianapolis Colts scored only 20 in the Jaguars’ seven-point win.
Head Coach Doug Marrone is not blaming Wash. When asked about the fifth-year coordinator, Marrone said, “As long as I’m here and I’m the head coach, yes, he’s safe.”
Marrone has said the right things this week, reminding critics that it takes a team effort on both sides of the ball. During this week’s media briefing, he urged the importance of players doing something special.
“We all have to get better; I’m going to acknowledge that,” he added. “We’ve tried everything … we just need someone to step up and make plays.”
A few playmakers to make those plays would help. A case could be made for Wash that his defense lacks some key components. He can only coach those that are here.
Defensive end Josh Allen has missed the last two games, while injuries to the defensive line go back to training camp. The loss of defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue through a forced trade and Calais Campbell in an amicable deal is challenging to overcome.
The Jaguars will try to snap their losing streak on Sunday in Los Angeles when they face the Chargers. Like Jacksonville, the Chargers won their opener and lost four straight, all by seven points or less.
Marrone knows he and General Manager Dave Caldwell are under observation from owner Shad Khan, who said he wanted results this year after bringing them back after last year’s 6-10 record. At this point, 6-10 would be a near miracle.
While the defense is struggling, the offense has not been lighting up the scoreboard, scoring 16 points or fewer in three of the past four games. Staying on the field longer makes any defense better.
As for Wash’s tenure, he is tied to Marrone. The part about “As long as I’m here … he’s safe” says it all.