Jacksonville Bold for 2.11.21 — Fourplay

Three running men
Expect more and faster developments in what is an active and early starting 2022 cycle.


Will the Republican primary to succeed Sen. Aaron Bean in Senate District 4 come down to money?

According to those close to a Mandarin legislator’s campaign, it’s Rep. Jason Fischer’s to lose if that’s so.

In his third term, Fischer may not have the social conservative clout of Rep. Clay Yarborough, the arch-conservative former Jacksonville City Council President. And he may not have the appeal to some aspects of the right-wing that Rep. Cord Byrd seems to favor.

But where Fischer is coming through is in heavy fundraising, a signal to his two legislative colleagues that no matter how much grassroots they might have, Fischer has the kind of green that allows a campaign to buy creative, define itself positively, and portray opponents in a less appealing light.

Three House Republicans are engaging in (SD) 4-play.

But some might think that green is just so much artificial turf.

Fischer has over $700,000 in hand between his campaign account and his Friends of Jason Fischer political committee. Nearly $150,000 of that comes from his previous committee, with four other political committees putting in roughly $475,000.

Those political committees got over $450,000 from Fischer’s previous political committee. One read is that the money was essentially secreted away in those other committees through the 2020 cycle so that Speaker Chris Sprowls couldn’t hit him up for a donation to Republican House Campaigns.

Fischer calls those concerns “pregame political chatter.” And he says he helped individual candidates. But what’s clear is that he’s been very thrifty, apparently for a good reason.

The other two declared candidates have ground to make up — in what will be a million-dollar spend for the eventual winner.

Yarborough has over $283,000 on hand after raising more than $110,000 in January. He brought in nearly $75,000 to his Floridians for Conservative Values political committee, with money from local fixtures John Rood and Thomas Petway as well as the Florida Chamber PAC coming in January. Between hard and soft cash, he has roughly $283,000 to deploy.

Meanwhile, Byrd raised $3,000 to his 1845 political committee in January, with under $40,000 on hand. At this writing, he hadn’t filed for his campaign account as of yet.

Fischer’s side argues that all the other candidates are known to less than 15% of voters. And while Byrd represents the most people in the district, he alone among the regional delegation, stood against Rep. Paul Renner in the Speaker’s race.

Other candidates are exploring runs, we hear.

Of course, timing is everything, and candidates are already queuing up for the soon-to-be-open House seats. There’s trial lawyer Heath Brockwell in HD 11 and Rogers Towers partner Adam Brandon in HD 12. More to come, for sure. So the decision to go back to the House may not be open and shut, should any of these candidates mull it.

Expect more and faster developments in what is an active and early starting 2022 cycle.


On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Mayor Lenny Curry, two Republican partisans, hailed the White House for beginning to send vaccinations to Walmarts via the Federal Pharmacy Program.

An initiative of Joe Biden’s administration, the White House describes the program as “a key component of the administration’s National Strategy to expand equitable access to vaccines for the American public.”

“We’re having more vaccine because of this, which is great,” DeSantis said during a news conference — without mentioning the President’s name.

Bringing Walmart into the vaccination mix. Image via Office of the Governor.

For Duval County, the Walmart way is the best. Whereas in many counties using Publix pharmacies, Duval County Publix locations are not universally convenient.

A total of 18 Duval County Walmarts will be giving shots, with others in surrounding counties, adding to the 42% of Duval seniors already vaccinated.


DeSantis also found time to praise the Jaguars’ hire of a new head coach in town.

“There’s been a lot of big news in Jacksonville, to bring Urban Meyer into town as a coach,” raved the Governor. “I remember when they brought him in [to the University of Florida]. It wasn’t very long until they were the top program in the country, and obviously, he’s done well other places too.”

Urban Meyer and Florida have a history.

The Governor wasn’t done. He noted that the Jaguars have the top draft pick, and attaboy consensus is that Clemson Tigers Quarterback Trevor Lawrence should be the selection.

“And then having the No. 1 draft pick, I mean, you know, I think the kid from Clemson is going to be a great player. You know, we’ll see who they take, but that’s who I would take.”

Don’t call us

Sen. Audrey Gibson is carrying SB 1120, a bill that would restrict telephone solicitors to three calls in 24 hours.

Don’t call us; we’ll call you, says Audrey Gibson. Image via Florida Senate.

“Six calls is outrageous. Three seemed a little more reasonable,” the Jacksonville Democrat said, creating “some level of accountability.”

Like most reading this, Gibson is frustrated by calls “for anything you can name: buying your house when you aren’t selling, insurance, car warranties when your car is 99 years old and ‘other calls.’”

“Putting someone’s phone number on a dialer to call over and over again is harassment!”

The House bill has also been filed, but it’s still early. Neither version has yet been referred to committees.

Wildlife wishlist

Northeast Florida Sen. Travis Hutson acknowledges that SB 1086 could potentially look like a “hodgepodge” of unrelated concerns to the untrained eye.

A Travis Hutson ‘agency bill’ casts a wide net. Image via Florida Senate.

The sprawling bill’s topics extend from tightening statutory language on drunk boating to negotiating exit and entry from space travel.

But the St. Johns County Republican’s bill is one of the most significant so-called “agency bills” in recent years for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, with several vital provisions emerging from their meetings last year, along with some cleanup language long overdue for implementation.

Among the reforms factored in the sweeping legislation: Enhanced penalties for drunk or impaired boating and implied consent to biometric tests for those boating if the law enforcement suspects impaired operation.

Also contemplated are provisions for temporary protection zones for space flight launches and reentry/recovery. Likewise, requirements for boating safety identification cards are formulated.

Similarly advanced: a mechanism for removing derelict vessels, a current gray area in Florida state statute.

A House companion to Hutson’s Senate bill has yet to manifest at this writing.

Time tracker

A new appropriations request from Rep. Sam Garrison of Clay County would bring new accountability to state workers’ time clock management.

Sam Garrison is watching the state’s (time) clock. Image via Florida House.

HB 3239 considers the $3.28 million routed toward the Workforce Management Project.

“Scheduling uniformity, federal and state compliance in rule/law, active management of overtime and leave liabilities, data sharing and payroll accuracy. Decision-makers have real-time visibility into the scheduling and time management of select agencies responsible for 26,000 state employees. As a result of investing $3,280,030, the state will conservatively avoid $4,800,000 in the first year alone,” the request asserts.

The initiative uses Kronos, which includes biometric touch screens to discourage the practice of “buddy punching.”

Six large for septic

Rep. Wyman Duggan is looking for $6 million from the state for Jacksonville’s long-delayed and very costly septic tank phase-out plan. The money would match $6 million from the city for the project.

By far, it’s the most ambitious appropriations request thus far in 2021 for the second term Westside Republican. The connected Ballard Partners is carrying it in Tallahassee, with key city staffer Leeann Krieg serving as Curry’s contact point.

Duggan wants the money for the Beverly Hills East area, one of many neighborhoods promised replacement decades back, to no avail. It would phase out 200 tanks, a move that the approps request claims would be good for the adjacent Ribault River.

Flushed: Wyman Duggan pushes a septic tank phase-out. Image via Florida House.

The need is real: the city and its utility, JEA, embarked on a plan to phase out the tanks five years ago. At that time, Beverly Hills was in the top three in terms of need.

Curry is committed to getting the project over the finish line, but time and budgets are running out for him, so this $6 million will come in handy.

Brandon plannin’

House District 12 may draw its first candidate for the 2022 cycle in the coming weeks.

Somebody has to be first. Image via Adam Brandon.

Jacksonville Republican Adam Brandon is exploring a possible campaign for the Southside Jacksonville seat. If elected, he joins fellow Rogers Towers shareholder Wyman Duggan among the Florida Legislature legal eagles.

Brandon is the first of what could be many candidates to stake a claim to the seat now open as current Rep. Clay Yarborough launches a Senate run.

Assuming Yarborough sticks with the Senate campaign, HD 12 could draw a competitive field of Republican hopefuls. However, the district lines — and possibly the district number — will shift between now and Election Day following the once-in-a-decade reapportionment process.

Oh, Canada

According to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, a Canadian aerospace company could be the next tenant at the Cecil Spaceport.

Edmonton’s Space Engine Systems signed a letter of intent to serve as its North American operation.

Cecil Spaceport gets a maple leaf vibe.

“We’re very excited to be working with Space Engine Systems and look forward to assisting with the fulfillment of the Company’s goals and mission objectives,” said Todd Lindner, Director of Cecil Spaceport. “Development of Space Engine Systems’ propulsion technologies program exemplifies the type of operations Cecil Air and Spaceport was developed to facilitate.”

Space Engine Systems President and Chief Technology Officer Pradeep Dass noted that Florida is an excellent location for its plans in the U.S.

“Cecil Spaceport is doing their best to provide us with all the support and the willingness to work with SES for our launch experimental flight both for suborbital and LEO (low Earth orbit),” Dass said.

Small biz leader

According to JAX Chamber, the area’s top small business leader for 2021 is a chiropractor.

Bridget Edkin, chiropractor and owner of Slainte Chiropractic, received the honor at a JAX Chamber ceremony on Feb. 2. She was selected Overall Small Business Leader of the Year out of a dozen finalists. Edkin opened the clinic in 2017 in Jacksonville Beach.

Edkin is a third-generation chiropractor, and her clinic handles about 300 patients per week. She has about a dozen employees. Her clinic takes its name from the Irish tiding Slainte, meaning “to your health.”

Edkin opened her own clinic, even though she was warned about the challenges of starting a business. But she persisted and now has plans to open two more locations in the Jacksonville area.

She also used an emerging technique for patients called the Gonstead Technique. It focuses on using analytic and comprehensive approaches.

Daniel Davis celebrates the best in Jax’s small business. Image via Florida Politics.

JAX Chamber President and CEO Daniel Davis said Edkin exemplifies the small business leader the Chamber hopes other businesses emulate.

“We have such incredible talent in our community, and it’s amazing what our small businesses are doing in Jacksonville,” Davis said. “Dr. Edkin is a talented, innovative leader, and I look forward to working with her over the next year.”

Parent advocates

A new advocacy training program for parents in Jacksonville is launching this month.

The Parents Who Lead program is designed to equip parents to work on civic advocacy and leadership techniques on behalf of children. It’s a program developed through a partnership between the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, Duval County Public Schools, Jacksonville Public Libraries and the Kids Hope Alliance.

Most of the parents selected for the program have already demonstrated community involvement, and the final 16 were selected out of some 70 applicants. It’s the third year of the program.

The parents take 20 three-hour classes to explain how they can better advocate for children’s community issues.

Diana Greene needs parents to lead. Image via Florida Politics.

“I absolutely commend these parents who are truly emblematic of what it means to be Team Duval,” said Superintendent Diana Greene. “School safety, equity in education, and mental health resources are just a few examples of areas where the community as a whole has to collaborate together to find solutions, and these parents are doing just that! They are investing their resources and hundreds of hours of their own time to develop themselves into child advocates and agents for change in the community.”

The program has already graduated 26 participants who took part in previous years.

This year’s participants include:

Jill Hill

Sree Panchagnula

Danita Matthews

Erika Watkins

Marcus Smothers

Kamlesh Jethwani

Mahak Gupta

Karen Demuth

LaQuanda Paschal

Teresa Mitchell

Julia Gray

Safa Mahjoub

Vanessa Davis

Andre Higgins

Hind Chahed

Andrea Barlow

Flagler Health honored

Health care review site Healthgrades is recognizing Flagler Hospital with the 2021 America’s 100 Best Hospitals Award.

This honor put Flagler Hospital in the top 2% of nearly 4,500 hospitals nationwide for its consistent, year-over-year superior clinical performance.

Healthgrades is the leading resource that connects consumers, physicians and health systems.

“This distinction is particularly meaningful in a time when providing the highest level of care in the safest possible environment requires even greater levels of innovation, resilience and commitment,” said Flagler Health+ President and CEO Jason Barrett in a statement. “Words cannot express the depth of respect and pride I have for our team members, especially those who have been working on the front lines throughout this pandemic for nearly a year.”

Flagler Hospital; The best of the best, again.

Healthgrades Chief Medical Officer Brad Bowman adds: “Now more than ever, it is important to celebrate the physicians, nurses and extended care teams that are working around the clock to keep our nation safe. We extend our heartfelt appreciation and commend them for their ongoing commitment to delivering the highest quality health care.”

Patients in hospitals receiving the award from 2017 through 2019 had, on average, a 26.1% lower risk of dying, measured across 19 rated conditions and procedures.

According to Healthgrades, if all hospitals performed similarly to those achieving the 100 Best Hospitals Award, it could save 172,298 lives. For example, a heart failure patient in hospitals achieving the award has, on average, a 31.3% lower risk of dying than compared to hospitals that did not receive the designation.

Flagler Hospital received five-star designations and/or excellence awards in more than 20 areas by Healthgrades in 2020-21. These include disease-specific and surgery-related categories.

During the 2021 study period, Healthgrades singled out the 100 Best Hospitals Award recipients for their overall clinical excellence and top-quality care across multiple specialties. These hospitals also showed superior performance for the Medicare population across at least 21 of 32 most common inpatient conditions and procedures.

To learn more information on how Healthgrades selects award recipients, visit healthgrades.com.

Staff Reports


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