“Lot J will not happen.”
Those were Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s words after the most significant setback of his 5 ½ years in office, the City Council’s rejection of the Lot J proposal.
The City Council had 12 votes of the 19 needed for what the Jaguars and the Mayor’s Office billed as a transformational bill. However, Curry needed 13 votes.
If it had been earlier in the second term, this might have gone through. The opponents of the deal, by and large, reached those decisions for their own reasons, leading to an unlikely alliance between Council President Tommy Hazouri and the man he defeated 16-3 for the job last year, Danny Becton.
A great moment for legislative independence? A strike against cronyism, deal-making, et al.?, Or was it really something else?
Was it this City Council, so desperate to assert itself after over half a decade of rolling over for this Mayor, killing the future of the franchise in spite?
Jacksonville never really had the bulk for an NFL team. The sales pitch was passion. These people wanted it more, so that effort can make up for structural deficiencies compared to other NFL cities.
True enough; during the first few years of the franchise, the passion cooled sometime around the end of the Bill Clinton era, with brief revivalist periods showing what things could have been like … if the team had only won.
Attendance isn’t a reliable indicator of enthusiasm in the pandemic, but even Gov. Ron DeSantis ad-libbed about the Jaguars not even selling out a socially distant seat configuration a few months back.
Will Trevor Lawrence make the difference?
That bet becomes bigger now that the city is not going to take the Lot J plunge.
Jacksonville’s favorite son’s favorite song — James Weldon Johnson’s iconic “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” — is slated for even more recognition, reports USA Today.
Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina wants to make it the national hymn, he told reporter Deborah Barfield Barry this week.
“To make it a national hymn, I think, would be an act of bringing the country together. It would say to people, ‘You aren’t singing a separate national anthem, you are singing the country’s national hymn,” said Clyburn. “The gesture itself would be an act of healing. Everybody can identify with that song.”
In the wake of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, the city renamed Hemming Park after Johnson, and it seems a season of increased appreciation will continue. Expect legislation to be filed even before you read this, perhaps.
Try, try again
A candidate soundly rejected in a low-wattage August primary returns for another go.
Erick Aguilar, who never got traction in his challenge to Rep. John Rutherford in the 2020 Congressional District 4 Republican primary, has filed with the Florida Division of Elections. Few candidates have filed for 2022 in the state and, thus far, Aguilar is alone in the field.
Assuming that a) Rutherford does not run again, b) redistricting changes the map in the district, or c) Aguilar somehow trolls Rutherford into debating this time around, expect Aguilar to run from the right, if his Twitter feed (a compendium of conspiratorial posts of the “stop the steal” variety) is any indication.
Rep. Michael Waltz divulged this week that he had received death threats after voting to certify the presidential election.
We have received threats. We reported those threats to the Capitol Police,” he told Bay News 9 reporter Samantha Jo Roth in a video shared on Twitter. “I think it’s sickening. It breaks my heart.”
“I’m used to receiving death threats from al-Qaida and terrorist organizations given my background as a special forces soldier,” Waltz told Roth. “But to receive them from fellow Americans, to receive them from even conservatives, it’s just heartbreaking.”
The angry calls began after Waltz changed his position on certifying several battleground states Biden won.
Help is on the way from the state of Florida for several critical environmental projects.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that several Jacksonville initiatives made the cut in the latest round of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s (DEO) Rebuild Florida General Planning Support Program, which will program money routed from HUD for disasters last decade.
Atlantic Beach will get nearly $87,000 to update a vulnerability assessment regarding tidal marsh and water facilities. Jacksonville will get roughly $63,000 for its assessment to examine vulnerability to future disasters.
Groundwork Jacksonville will get $718,809 for watershed restoration and a management plan for McCoy’s Creek and Hogans Creek, two Urban Core tributaries getting a lot of city budget attention also.
The Governor lauded these projects as a sign of his commitment to the environment.
“The resiliency of the state of Florida remains a top priority for my administration as we approach the two-year anniversary of my executive order to achieve more now for Florida’s environment,” said DeSantis. “I’m pleased to build on our environmental achievements with this first-of-its-kind mitigation program that will provide Florida’s communities the opportunity to become more resilient to future storms.”
Urge to purge
Expect 2022 to be nasty in Republican primaries in Northeast Florida, with the GOP in the offing, says the wife of Rep. Cord Byrd.
In a Facebook post, Esther Byrd cautioned members of the Republican Women’s Club of Duval County against going third party.
“There may be a moment when going third party may be a viable option. But we aren’t there yet,” Byrd said, urging folks to stay red and “purge the Republican Party.”
One supposes that surge to be metaphorical, but to what degree? In a series of Facebook posts contemporaneous with the Capitol’s siege, she asserted that complaints about Donald Trump supporters brawling with the Capitol Police reflected a double standard.
“ANTIFA and BLM can burn and loot buildings and violently attack police and citizens,” Byrd remarked on her personal Facebook page. “But when Trump supporters peacefully protest, suddenly ‘Law and Order’ is all they can talk about!”
Expect the Byrds, a political force in Northeast Florida Republican politics, will use the moment and the aftermath as an occasion to impose purity tests on GOP candidates.
“In the coming civil wars (We the People vs. the Radical Left and We the People cleaning up the Republican Party), team rosters are being filled. Every elected official in D.C. will pick one. There are only 2 teams … With Us [or] Against Us,” Byrd mused. “We the People will NOT forget!”
Schisms in the GOP are nothing new, of course, but it will be interesting to see how or if any of this comes into play in the 2022 campaign cycle. If Byrd is in a competitive primary, expect unambiguous plays to the more rogue elements of the Republican base. And expect opponents of the ramped-up rhetoric to be painted as recidivist RINOs.
With HD 12 Rep. Clay Yarborough looking at a run for the Republican nomination in SD 4 next year, HD 12 opens up, and a former City Council President is eyeing the Southside Jacksonville seat.
“It’s worth considering when Rep. Yarborough vacates the seat,” says Republican Scott Wilson, elected twice by comfortable margins before leaving the seat to run for Duval County Clerk of Court last year. Wilson did not clear the August primary.
Wilson was a former aide to Councilman Don Redman, who fell short in the primary for the then open seat in 2016 to Yarborough.
Thus far, no one is a filed candidate in HD 12. Yarborough faced both primary and general election opponents last year, but neither presented serious challenges.
Please Mr. Postman
St. Augustine friends, fans, and aficionados now have an opportunity to represent the city while sending priority mail parcels via the United States Postal Service.
The $7.95 stamp honors the Castillo de San Marcos and is available starting Jan. 24.
“The artwork catches it in the glow of sunrise over Matanzas Bay,” the promotional copy notes.
The fort was built in the 17th century by Spain, then taken over in the 19th century when Florida was a U.S. territory. It was given an Anglicized name then renamed to the original sobriquet under the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration.
An expansion of vaccinations did not go off without a hitch this week, leading Jacksonville’s Mayor to express displeasure on social media.
Curry addressed long lines and shot shortfalls at two senior centers turned into vaccine stations Monday, saying that the city only had so much of the shot to go around.
Curry said Jacksonville “is administering COVID-19 vaccinations & exhausting our daily supply. We don’t control supply. We can only provide what we have on a daily basis.”
However, suppliers are meager, a seeming indictment of vaccine distribution on the federal and state levels relative to Jacksonville.
“Nearly a thousand citizens will be vaccinated daily as long as supply lasts, and as more supply becomes available to our City, we will pursue additional locations,” Curry said.
With nearly a million people in Duval County, that pace would set vaccinations to be wrapped by sometime after the next mayoral election in 2023.
During an Action News Jax interview Tuesday, Curry said that his administration had secured 11,000 vaccines, and there was supply to meet sign-ups. However, he continues to note that supply chain issues drive how many can get vaccinated.
The Mayor stressed his “great relationship” with the Governor, suggesting that any blame down the road won’t go to Tallahassee but to Joe Biden’s Washington.
A dozen small business entrepreneurs in the Jacksonville area have been named for their acumen.
JAX Chamber came out with their annual small business leaders of the year list that recognizes commercial outlets from the West Side of the city through the Beaches.
The JAX Chamber small business leader winners this year are:
Jon Hart, Hart SEO for the area Arlington.
Dr. Bridget Edkin-Farrar, Slainte Chiropractic for the Jacksonville Beaches.
Jim Webb, Manifest Distilling for downtown Jacksonville.
Rochelle Stoddard, Berman Bros. Inc., for the entrepreneurial growth division.
Nemiah Rutledge, Body Paradox, for the Health Council.
Wendy Norfleet, Norfleet Integrated Solutions, for the Information Technology Council.
Gustavo Diaz, Exotico Coffee Company, for the North Jacksonville area.
Snowden McFall, Brightwork, Fired Up Professional Speaking and Coaching for the Professional Women’s Council.
Jesus Garay, Global Freight & Commerce, LLC, for the Transportation & Logistics Council.
Dustin Fries, Kanine Social, for the West Jacksonville area.
Gloria Vinson, Landco Properties Inc. for the Mandarin area.
Trey Vollmer, Vollmer Visuals, for the South Jacksonville area.
One of the 12 business leaders will be named the overall 2021 Small Business Leader of the Year during a breakfast reception at Jacksonville’s Schultz Center in a ceremony on Feb. 2, including JAX Chamber President Daniel Davis other dignitaries.
The Jacksonville Transit Authority is partnering with American Red Cross North Florida Region to raise awareness of National Blood Donation Month.
Throughout the week, the Acosta Bridge will shine red every day to encourage Jacksonville communities to donate blood in 2021.
The American Red Cross of North Florida serves approximately 3.8 million residents in 35 counties, which covers Northeast Florida, the Capital Area and Northwest Florida chapters.
To find locations or get involved, visit redcross.org/local/florida/north-florida.
Nonprofit COVID funding
About $1.2 million will be shared among 117 First Coast nonprofit agencies to help fund expenses associated with the coronavirus outbreak.
The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida’s Respond, Adapt and Recover fund began distributing the funding to the agencies serving people in six counties Tuesday. The Community Foundation funding is being disbursed through grants ranging from $500 to $50,000.
It’s the latest round of nonprofit funding grants in the special fund established by the foundation in the fall to help deal with the expenses brought by the COVID-19 outbreak. The funding will be used to cover expenses incurred from the pandemic, such as personal protective equipment, plexiglass, testing, social distancing and sanitation measures.
“These nonprofit organizations, many with limited budgets before the pandemic, suddenly were faced with overwhelming, unplanned costs that were essential to continuing to serve their clients,” said Kathleen Shaw, vice president of programs at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida.
There were about 150 applications for the funding that Shaw had to vet.
“We saw them make the anguishing decisions to ensure a safe environment for staff and clients, and we know these grants will help ease some of the financial burdens that the pandemic created,” Shaw said.
About one-third of the agencies that received funding have annual budgets of less than $200,000.