Jacksonville Bold for 7.7.21 — Prayers for Ju’Coby

Praying hands with faith in religion and belief in God on dark background. Power of hope or love and devotion.
Yet again, COVID-19 strikes the Jacksonville City Council.

Prayers for Ju’Coby 

Yet again, COVID-19 has come for a member of the Jacksonville City Council.

On Monday evening, the reports came out: Ju’Coby Pittman was in the ICU at a local hospital.

Prayers for Ju’Coby Pittman, currently in intensive care for COVID-19.

Pittman, appointed to the District 8 seat in 2018 and elected a year later, is a Democrat and a community leader of the first order, known for her work with the Clara White Mission long before entering politics.

Now she is struggling for her life, attempting to stabilize in the face of the disease that already struck the Council.

Council President Sam Newby, hospitalized with the coronavirus last year, stressed his recovery in his installation speech, where he celebrated God taking him “from the patient to the presidency.” In a statement issued before dawn Tuesday, Newby was emotional in support.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Council Member Ju’Coby Pittman and her family during this time of illness. I KNOW God to be a healer, and I trust God will heal my dear colleague completely. We have so much more work to do! God is Able!”

Mayor Lenny Curry, appearing on WJXT Tuesday morning, lauded her accomplishments in the community.

“More importantly,” Curry added, “she’s a good mom and a good friend.”

Prayers are up all over Duval County for Councilwoman Pittman’s recovery. And they are up here in Jacksonville Bold as well.


Clay County will hold the gavel in the Florida House soon.

Rep. Sam Garrison of Fleming Island was selected for a future Speakership while Bold was on break.

Sam Garrison will soon get the gavel.

Garrison, as the Florida Times-Union’s David Bauerlein noted, in 2026, will follow in the footsteps of John Thrasher, another Fleming Island Republican who ascended to the same position. And he will follow Rep. Paul Renner, the Palm Coast legislator and Jacksonville lawyer who will become Speaker in 2022?

Garrison is in a safe seat, one previously held by Rep. Travis Cummings, and isn’t likely to be challenged seriously in 2022’s general election. That said, he is a strong fundraiser, and his Honest Leadership political committee already had over $200,000 banked as of the end of May, with June totals expected to come in later this week.

Choosing Crist

Is Rep. Charlie Crist set to carry Duval in the 2022 Democratic primary for Governor? Thus far, he’s looking good when it comes to endorsements, with a second major player endorsing him early in the race against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

State Sen. Audrey Gibson, erstwhile leader of the Democratic caucus in the Senate, endorsed Crist in a video tweeted Tuesday by his campaign.

Gibson lauded Crist’s “extensive background on what is the right thing to do for this state” as part of the reason for the endorsement in what was a heavily edited conversation.

Gibson is term-limited in 2022. But her early endorsement is especially significant when it comes to the Jacksonville market.

Crist already made a play here, appearing with City Council member Reggie Gaffney when he did his campaign launch tour a few weeks back. Gaffney has been teasing a run for Gibson’s seat, which would set him on a collision course with Gibson’s protégé, Rep. Tracie Davis, who is also planning on running for Senate.

Crist and Fried each see the road to the nomination and a potential general election win running through Duval County. But in the early contest for big-name endorsements, the durable Crist carries Duval.

Surfside wake

The Florida Times-Union caught up with state Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Cord Byrd. The men represent Jacksonville’s beaches in the Senate and House, respectively, and each expects changes to inspection schedules in the wake of the Surfside condo collapse. But neither was willing to predict how those discussions will go.

“It was devastating,” said Byrd. “Your home is your sanctuary. That’s where you go to get away from the world and to be in the middle of the night in your bed, and all of a sudden, it collapses. It’s heartbreaking.”

Byrd is “not opposed at all to doing something at the state level if that’s what the experts tell us is best to prevent something like this happening again.”

“There will be intense scrutiny,” Bean said, anticipating competing bills with different suggestions for improvement. “We still have to unfold exactly what happened. I think it’s too soon to make the call, too soon to tell.”

Aaron Bean says changes in inspection schedules could be coming in 2022. Image via Colin Hackley.

An open question going into any Session after a tragedy is whether stakeholders can come together on fixes. With House and Senate leadership engaged on what has become a statewide issue with global scrutiny, we expect a focus on tightening up inspection schedules in committee weeks ahead of the 2022 Session.

On the move

Jacksonville City Council member Garrett Dennis is term-limited in two years but will be running for another seat sooner.

Is another campaign in Garrett Dennis’ future? Image via A.G. Gancarski.

He tells Jacksonville Bold that he will run in HD 13 once that seat becomes open. Rep. Tracie Davis, who currently represents House District 13, is expected to run for Gibson’s Senate District 6 seat next year. Gibson is termed out.

Dennis and Davis will present a united front of continuity if this happens, as many expect.

Council member Gaffney has indicated an interest in a Senate run, but he hasn’t filed yet. If Gaffney and Davis primary each other, look for fireworks and the most exciting campaign of the 2022 cycle locally.

One notable local political operative is already floating trial balloons for Dennis’ seat, meanwhile.

Siottis Jackson, Chief Operating and Programming Officer at the First Coast Leadership Foundation told Bold he was “exploring that option” when we asked if he was looking at the race.

Jackson is pretty close to a final decision. Though he says it’s not nailed down yet, he does seem to be floating the potential on social media. A tweet this weekend showcased his grandmother in a graphic, with the hashtag #Its9ForMe accompanying the creative content.

Jackson’s exploration of a run comes at a time when Jacksonville Democratic politics is in flux.

An alum of the Congressional Black Caucus’ political institute and no stranger to local politics, he is well-positioned for 2023, especially in an otherwise empty field. He has been credited with helping improve Democratic performance in Jacksonville elections in 2018 and 2020, and Dennis says he would make a “great addition” to Council.

No one here has filed for anything yet, but expect action at some point soon.

Becton bonanza

Political veteran Danny Becton knows what it takes to win an election. He also knows the importance of demonstrating early strength.

The Jacksonville City Council member is looking to become Duval County Property Appraiser in 2023 and continues to get the kinds of donations that suggest he may be the preferred Republican candidate.

Danny Becton knows what it takes to win, and that is early strength. Image via WJCT.

June saw Becton raise $16,100, pushing him near $85,000 raised after two months alone in the field. Among the donors: Ambassador John Rood and Gate Petroleum.

Becton has the blessing of current property appraiser Jerry Holland, no small thing in a chase for one of the city’s few constitutional offices.

Democrats did not make a strong play for the position in 2019, a year where the party seemed to lack a cohesive strategy overall. Whether a Democrat of stature emerges in the next couple of years and runs for this office remains to be seen, but Becton’s off to a good start on the Republican side long before the March 2023 vote.

Electric youth

A laudatory story about a Curry administration new hire leads to recriminations for the Florida Times-Union from the Mayor’s Office.

The objection? The framing of the story.

“A professional woman with excellent credentials coming to live and serve our city and the @jaxdotcom headline is littered with age discrimination and talking about a woman’s “young face” … Do better, Mary Kelli Palka,” blasted Chief of Staff Jordan Elsbury.

The headline from the local paper described Anne Coglianese as a “young face,” and the tweet compounded the gaffe, illustrating the environmental specialist with experience in the Barack Obama White House and guiding the flood-prone city of New Orleans’ coastal resilience initiatives as “apparently not yet 30.”

Elsbury, of course, is roughly the same age, and his relative youth has not been discussed as an issue as he has risen through the ranks.

As flooding issues have increased, despite rhetoric from politicians throughout the years and decades, perhaps a “young face” with fresh eyes can drive sustainable solutions that thus far have eluded local policymakers.

New judge needed

A new judge is needed in Northeast Florida on an expedited time frame, notes the Jacksonville Bar Association.

With judge Karen Cole having retired, a vacancy now exists in the 4th Judicial Circuit. Interested potential jurists have until the close of business on July 23 to prepare their applications in unredacted and redacted forms. A digital photograph is also requested.

Applications are on the Florida Bar and the Executive Office of the Governor’s websites.

Lucky applicants will get to make their cases in August in the chambers of Chief Judge Mark Mahon on what historically is an unlucky day: Friday the 13th.

Related: check out Judge Cole’s reminiscences on a long and interesting career in the law via the Jacksonville Daily Record.


Don’t call it a comeback … but it doesn’t look like COVID-19 is done with the 904 just yet. Northeast Florida positive test rates were among the highest in the state during the last week of data available from Florida’s Department of Health.

From June 25 to July 1, Duval County reported 1,420 cases, with an 11.1% positive test rate.

That is the highest proportion of positive tests of any major metro in the state. For context, Miami-Dade and Broward counties are below 4%, Palm Beach is just over 4%, and Orange at 5.3%.

Hillsborough, which includes Tampa, was at 5.7%.

Duval, where 47% of residents are vaccinated and an additional 16.5% had the virus, is not alone among Northeast Florida counties facing rates of positive tests far higher than the 5.2% state average.

Baker County, which includes MacClenny, saw a 16.4% positive testing rate, among the highest in the state, over the same week.

The other counties in the region saw variations on the same theme, with low vaccination rates coinciding with a viral surge.

Read more here.

Durbin Park Y

First Coast YMCA is expanding its footprint into St. Johns County with a 40,000-square-foot branch planned for the Flagler Health+ campus in Durbin Park.

The facility is set to open in late 2023.

Durbin Park is getting a new Y. Image via Flagler Health+.

“As you look at projections of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida growing, we always thought this is an opportunity for growth,” First Coast YMCA President and CEO Eric Mann told the Jacksonville Business Journal. “It started eight years ago when (State Road) 9B was completed. I don’t think anyone could have imagined the rapid growth since 9B was completed. It’s exciting to be a part and to be one of the institutions that helps the area become a community.”

The Durbin Park location will join three existing branches of First Coast YMCA in St. Johns County: Ponte Vedra Beach, St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach.

The partnership between First Coast YMCA and Flagler Health+ begin in 2018 with a 25,000-square-foot facility inside the MuraBella Flagler Health Village.

“We are thrilled about our partnership with the First Coast YMCA and the premier destination we’re building together,” said Flagler Health+ President and CEO Jason Barrett. “Once complete, residents will have one-stop access to wellness programs that will ultimately work together to build a healthier community.”

Done deal

The Jacksonville Jaguars agreed to terms with quarterback Trevor Lawrence this week, numbers that illustrate the advantage of having a projected starter on a rookie contract.

Lawrence signed a four-year deal. The $36.8 million package sees nearly $25 million in guaranteed money. The contract has a fifth-year option also.

For the next four years, essentially, Jacksonville will save big money at quarterback, where the cap hit for a real deal starter is closer to $20 million than $10 million. Will this put them in a position to win the AFC South? Eventually. Maybe.

In Tennessee, Ryan Tannehill has been more than functional in a Titans offense centered around workhorse running back Derrick Henry. The Titans will be a tough out again this year. But in Houston, which has been a dumpster fire, and Indianapolis, where questions remain about the Colts amid the Carson Wentz rehabilitation project, there are vulnerabilities.

We don’t know, of course, how Lawrence’s learning curve will look. What we do know is that there will be one. However, most of the division in flux may bode well for the bottom line in terms of wins and losses. That remains to be seen, but we can agree that the Lawrence rookie deal is a balance sheet winner.

Staff Reports


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