Jacksonville Bold for 8.25.21: Shape of things to come

Businessman with binoculars.
Well before the new year, a clearer picture of the Senate race emerges.

Breaking today — Jacksonville City Council member Tommy Hazouri has been released from the Mayo Clinic one day after being admitted, according to a news release from Hazouri’s Council office.

“Councilman Tommy Hazouri will be released from The Mayo Clinic later today and will return home under hospice care. Tommy deeply appreciates all the thoughts, well wishes, and prayers from the Jacksonville community. While his lungs may be failing him, his heart remains full for the people of this city. The Hazouri family asks that you continue respecting their privacy in this difficult time,” the statement reads.

Thoughts and prayers to Tommy Hazouri.

Shape of things to come

Months before we wish a happy new year to 2022, there’s clarity about who the region’s next two Senators might be when 2023 kicks off.

We can assume that Rep. Clay Yarborough will have the inside track to replace Sen. Aaron Bean next year, given that Reps. Cord Byrd and Jason Fischer bowed out after Senate leadership showed a preference for Yarborough.

Well before the new year, a clearer picture of the Senate race emerges.

And this is less of a done deal, but it looks like Jacksonville City Council member Reggie Gaffney has a solid head start in his bid to succeed term-limited Sen. Audrey Gibson. Gaffney appeared strong, banking nearly $200,000. He’s the point person on virtually everything Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is doing downtown, which means earned media. Locals saw the councilman’s #TeamGaffney hat on the news over the weekend as he messaged on issues with the Berkman 2 teardown.

Many expect Rep. Tracie Davis to run for Gibson’s seat, as well. In turn, Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis will likely run to succeed Davis in HD 13. Similarly, the inside track, for now, is former Rep. Lake Ray’s in Yarborough’s HD 12, as he runs for Senate.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has made his preferences known in legislative races before and may do so again, but it really won’t matter in the Senate scrums. With the eventual winners slated for an eight-year term of service if they are reelected, working with Gaffney and Yarborough may be a question for the next mayor, whoever that ends up being, to solve. It will be interesting to see if 2023 candidates comment on these Senate races publicly at all.

Impeach?

Rep. John Rutherford is among that increasing group of Republicans who see President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan endgame as a potential exit ramp from the Biden presidency.

In a tweet Tuesday, the third-term Jacksonville Republican suggested that Biden should be impeached if a single American gets left in Afghanistan.

“President Biden must make one thing clear: the U.S. military is not leaving Afghanistan until EVERY single American is safely evacuated. If he leaves any Americans behind, he should be impeached,” Rutherford tubthumped.

Biden’s impeachment may be a tough sell in Democratic Washington, but Rutherford’s messaging is more for his deep-red district back home.

Rutherford’s call for impeachment aligns with other unlikely suggestions for the removal of Biden. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott has suggested the 25th Amendment might be in play.

Eviction protection

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson is looking to protect Floridians in vulnerable housing situations via the Federal Disaster Housing Stability Act of 2021

He announced his support of a Rep. Val Demings bill would impose an automatic eviction moratorium on rentals and a foreclosure moratorium for all federally backed mortgages for locations under a federal emergency declaration.

Recent hurricanes underscored the need for the legislation to Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat representing Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which includes Jacksonville.

Al Lawson wants action to prevent evictions. Image via AP.

“I have seen firsthand the toll that natural disasters, most recently with Hurricanes Michael and Irma, has placed on families across North Florida,” Rep. Lawson said. “Implementing a temporary eviction moratorium is crucial for recovery for many low-income households. Residents should not be burdened with locating a place to sleep at night during an already stressful time. The Federal Disaster Housing Stability Act is an important step in safeguarding our most vulnerable Americans during moments of tremendous need.”

In support: the National Housing Law Project and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Primrose path

Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to put Nick Primrose into critical roles. Friday, the Governor’s Office announced that Primrose would chair the Florida Elections Commission: a weighty part given the impending elections and controversial election law changes.

New role for Nick Primrose. Image via Twitter.

The lawyer is currently the Chief of Regulatory Compliance for the Jacksonville Port Authority. Previously, he was a Deputy General Counsel in the Governor’s Executive Office and General Counsel to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

“I want to thank Gov. DeSantis for this appointment and his trust in me to Chair the Florida Elections Commission. I’m humbled and honored to serve the State of Florida in this role and ensure elections laws are followed,” Primrose tweeted.

The commission includes other heavy hitters, including former Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, former Gov. Scott’s second in command. Lopez-Cantera was in Jacksonville often as LG and as a Senate candidate a while back.

Judgment

DeSantis rolled out a raft of appointments for the commission on the new Mental Health and Substance Abuse, with two Jacksonville names added, including that of a sitting judge.

All smiles for Mark Mahon. Image via Jax Daily Record.

Judge Mark Mahon, the Chief Judge of Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit Court, is in charge of the court’s Mental Health Offender Program. The MHSA Commission was created in 2021 by state statute, and DeSantis’ office felt that his experience would be helpful statewide. Time will tell if we see an expansion of Mahon’s concept statewide.

Mahon is not the only Duval representation on the new panel. Kelly Gray-Eurom, a Board-Certified Emergency Medicine Physician at UF Health Jacksonville, is also on the board.

Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell will chair the commission.

Gabriel lands

It turns out there is life after being Jacksonville’s general counsel.

Former lead city lawyer Jason Gabriel is now firmly ensconced in the private sector, having signed on with Burr and Forman last week, a law firm expanding its Jacksonville presence.

Jason Gabriel finds life in the private sector. Image via Jacksonville Daily Record.

“After 11 years of public service to the City of Jacksonville, I am excited to continue working to help propel the city and region’s economic growth in the private sector,” said Gabriel. “The talented team at Burr & Forman shares my commitment to effective service and top-quality results, and I look forward to this opportunity and the next chapter in my legal career.”

Gabriel’s portfolio will intersect, at least in part, with his former employer. The release says he will handle “land use, community redevelopment, economic development, real estate, governmental law and regulatory compliance.”

“He also represents clients in matters involving corporate law and financial transactions, and he assists clients in obtaining approvals for land use, zoning, and other federal, state and local entitlements,” the write-up notes.

“We are very excited to welcome Jason to our team,” said Gregory Lunny, managing partner of Burr & Forman’s Jacksonville office. “As we continue to grow this office to meet our clients’ needs, Jason is a key addition to our team. He is an outstanding lawyer with extensive experience representing Jacksonville’s private and public sector clients in zoning, development, land use and governmental matters.”

He’s running

Perpetual candidate Darcy Richardson keeps candidate-ing.

No jacket needed, we guess. Image via Darcy Richardson.

This time, he’s running for Jacksonville Mayor, joining a field that includes two Republicans formally filed (Council members Matt Carlucci and Al Ferraro) and at least two pre-candidates (Republican Daniel Davis and Democrat Donna Deegan).

Richardson got roughly 88,000 votes as the running mate of another perpetual candidate, Rocky de la Fuente, in the 2020 campaign. In 2018, as the Reform Party candidate for Governor, he got 0.6% of the vote, good for third place. Richardson’s roughly 47,000 votes was more than the margin of victory for DeSantis.

He won’t raise money. But he likely will have to be put on the debate stage, meaning that he will be able to push and frame dialogue, adding unique challenges for candidates trying to appeal to the hard right, the center-right and the center-left alike. (In Jacksonville, that’s the political spectrum.)

Test of strength

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman has recovered from COVID-19, but struggles of a different sort continue.

Recovery and more struggles for Ju’Coby Pittman.

In the wake of board members resigning from her nonprofit Clara White Mission over concerns over institutional controls, Pittman called a rare Sunday news conference for damage control.

“I’m here to share with you today that Clara White Mission is strong. It’s strong y’all,” Pittman said at a news conference Sunday afternoon, as reported by WJXT.

At issue is a reported failure to loop board members in the virus issues plaguing the homeless shelter. A chef died weeks back, bringing media scrutiny into the matter.

Pittman seemed to blame the board for not understanding whatever was happening at the mission.

“The board members who interceded did not understand the process, and if you don’t understand the process, I think you need to ask questions before you just try to take over and cripple the impact of feeding the homeless. Those of you who know me know that if I was out of the hospital, that would not have happened,” said Pittman.

Pittman stands for District 8. Then-Gov. Scott appointed her in 2018 to fill legally-troubled Katrina Brown’s position and elected in her own right the following year.

Mask up

After Labor Day, masks are required for most students in Jacksonville-area schools — unless a doctor says otherwise.

Just weeks after finding a carveout exception to DeSantis’ ban of school mask mandates, Duval County joined other districts in flouting executive rule-making Monday.

In an emergency meeting Monday, the district voted to issue an indoor K-12 mask mandate by a 5-2 vote after a nearly eight-hour meeting. The rule, effective Sept. 7, applies to schools, school events and transportation for 90 days.

With this emergency rule-making vote for a delayed facial covering policy, Duval joins other urban counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, Leon, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Sarasota, and Alachua counties all have mask requirements already. Some are facing legal challenges.

Dissenting was Lori Hershey, who is running for state House, and fellow conservative Charlotte Joyce.

Lori Hershey was a no on mask mandate vote.

Ahead of the vote, prominent doctors warned of the need for a mask mandate with a more contagious virus that is more dangerous to young people than earlier iterations.

Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation, argued in favor of masks as a mitigation measure with hospitals still at “critical mass.” Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen said this is a different challenge altogether, describing the delta variant as “COVID-21.” Dr. Mobeen Rathore said a mandate would be “two weeks too late.”

Watch us grow

Constantly engaging The Jaxson magazine crunched some of the 2020 census numbers, and the big reveal is Jacksonville going through significant growth … with big demographic shifts.

“Jacksonville’s Urban Core — the area within the city limits before Consolidation — is growing for the first time in six decades,” The Jaxson notes. Indeed, over 110,000 live in the area now, and a long-awaited turn for neighborhoods next to downtown may be happening.

Will demographics give Springfield new life?

Gentrification is part of what’s happening, and Springfield may be a view of the future. The historically Black neighborhood changed by the process, now approaching 55% White.

“While Jacksonville may be a majority-minority community now, Historic Springfield is on the opposite trajectory,” the write-up notes.

The whole thing’s worth a read.

Tweet, tweet:

Labor of love

Hospital evaluation company Healthgrades is naming Flagler Hospital among its 2021 Labor and Delivery Excellence Award winners, a distinction putting it in the top 5% of all hospitals.

The award is for “exceptional care provided to mothers during and after labor and delivery.” Healthgrades is nationally known as a leading resource to connect consumers, physicians, and health care facilities.

This is the fourth consecutive year Flagler Hospital received the Labor and Delivery Excellence Award (2018-2021).

If you are having a baby, Flagler Hospital is one of the best.

“Being recognized by Healthgrades speaks highly of the commitment of the Maternity Care team at Flagler Health+,” Flagler Health+ President and CEO Jason Barrett said. “To receive the Labor and Delivery Excellence Award once more is a great honor and underscores our commitment to the betterment of the physical, social and economic health here in our community — for this generation and beyond.”

“Now more than ever, there is a heightened awareness around the importance of quality health care, especially for expectant mothers and their families,” said Healthgrades Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brad Bowman. “We’re pleased to recognize the recipients of the 2021 Labor and Delivery Excellence Award for providing superior care for women during labor and delivery.”

To gauge performance, Healthgrades analyzed data for hospitals across 16 states for the years 2017 through 2019. Variations in hospital performance make a significant difference in patient care.

From 2017 through 2019, if all hospitals performed along Healthgrades Labor and Delivery Excellence Award guidelines, it could have prevented complications in 138,318 patients — an average of 41.7% lower risk of experiencing difficulties.

For more on Healthgrades awards and methodology, click here.

Doggie bag

Love animals and the Columbia Restaurant? Then September is your month.

This week, the Columbia announced it selected the St. Augustine Humane Society as one of the September beneficiaries in its long-running “Community Harvest” program, which directs 5% of lunch and dinner sales to nonprofits in the form of gift cards.

Since 1998, the Columbia Restaurant’s Community Harvest program has donated $3 million to nonprofit organizations throughout Florida.

The Columbia goes paws up for September.

Lunch and dinner customers can put a check mark next to the name of a nonprofit listed on a ballot provided by the restaurant. The promotion is available at the St. Augustine location, 98 St. George Street, and other Columbia locations in Florida.

“Since 2013, we are very proud to be selected as a local participant in the Community Harvest program,” Smith said. “The restaurant and its patrons show their generous support by helping to prevent the needless relinquishment of pets to shelters through our charity services and low-cost spay-neuter programs.”

St. Augustine Humane Society executive director Carolyn Smith said the gift certificate program helps the nonprofit acknowledge supporters, including top fundraisers who took part in this year’s Pin Up Paws Calendar Photo Contest fundraiser and will attend the 11th annual Pin Up Paws party and calendar reveal event Oct. 28.

The Columbia Restaurant is also a major sponsor of Pin-Up Paws. Clear Channel Outdoor donated a billboard campaign to promote the fundraiser.

More information about the event is at (904) 829-2737 or PUPparty.org.

Great performances

The first two dismal games of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ preseason didn’t dull the appetite of the City Council to give the team more money.

Taxpayers will foot half the bill for a new Jaguars performance center. Image via Jacksonville Daily Record.

The Council approved Tuesday a bill that would distribute $60 million of city money toward a performance center for the Jaguars; the team would pick up the other half of the cost.

Finance and Rules both approved the legislation by 7-0 votes the week before, cinching the deal ahead of a dispositive vote at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. This was a consent agenda vote since it passed both committees unanimously.

The facility will house a weight room, three practice fields, and a concession stand.

Complaints about facilities for the team have recurred. Former Wide Receiver coach Keenan McCardell called the current workout set up a “dungeon,” and no one rushed to say he was wrong.

The team agrees to a 30-year lease on the performance center, which gives some comfort they aren’t exploring a move. The group wants it open by 2023.

Caregiver

Tom Coughlin, whose NFL career brought him through Jacksonville as the first head coach and then in the front office, gave the world a glimpse into his private role as the caretaker for his wife of more than 54 years this week.

“Our hearts are broken. Judy has been everything to our family. For the past four years, we’ve helplessly watched her go from a gracious woman with a gift for conversation, hugging all the people she met and making them feel they were the most important person in the room, to losing almost all ability to speak and move,” Coughlin wrote in The New York Times.

Coughlin added that Judy “used to enjoy planning family get-togethers, going for morning walks, and caring for her rose bushes; however, those activities are but distant memories. Her days are now filled with lying in bed, watching the Hallmark Channel, sitting in a wheelchair in the sun, and receiving round-the-clock care. And what’s worse, she is trapped inside a body that will not allow her to be the person she was.”

Jaguars’ fans of a certain age remember Coughlin as the taskmaster coach who led the team to two AFC title games, but his real legacy is in these moments.

Tweet, tweet:

College try

The Twitterverse was all over Jaguars Coach Urban Meyer following Jacksonville’s 23-21 loss at New Orleans in Monday’s preseason game.

One caustic wit tweeted that quarterback Trevor Lawrence asked Meyer when the Jags would be playing Wake Forest.

Former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky, now an analyst with ESPN, tweeted: “Legit. Urban Meyer should already be thinking of a new OC (offensive coordinator).”

Orlovsky called the Jags’ offense “archaic.”

That might be an overreach in search of clicks, especially for a rebuilding team with a new coaching staff and a rookie quarterback. But even Meyer noted afterward, “We just have to get better.”

Trevor Lawrence has an uneven — but not quite bad — night. Image via AP.

Lawrence had an uneven night, but the numbers weren’t horrible either. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 113 yards in his six series under center. He had no touchdowns, but maybe more importantly, he also had no interceptions.

“We’ve got to click a little bit more,” Lawrence said afterward.

Most critics didn’t note that Jacksonville was missing three starters on the offensive line: left tackle Cam Robinson (ankle), left guard Andrew Norwell (elbow) and center Brandon Linder (knee).

It’s going to take some time. The Jags are coming off a 1-15 season that “earned” them the right to take Lawrence with the first overall draft pick. And for all the phenomenal success Meyer had as a college coach, he, like Lawrence, is a rookie in the NFL.

There was one particularly encouraging sign, however.

The run defense seems much improved, in sharp contrast to a year ago. It allowed 63 yards on 21 carries to the Saints a week after giving Cleveland 41 yards on 26 carries.

Jacksonville wraps up the preseason schedule on Sunday at Dallas. Game time is 1 p.m.

Staff Reports


2 comments

  • suzan

    August 25, 2021 at 3:46 pm

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  • Johny Reb

    August 31, 2021 at 2:47 am

    Lori Hershey is no conservative. She supports Joe Biden. The only reason she voted for no mask mandate and not to change the school names is because she is running for political office and needs the Conservative votes. Beware people she is a RINO.

Comments are closed.


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