Jacksonville Bold for 9.8.21: Silly season

Male Speaker Standing In Front Of Microphones
The 2023 election is coming faster than you think.

The silly season

The 2023 First Election for Mayor is still 18 months away, but the politicking has already begun, and much of it is for earned media.

It’s something that Mayor Lenny Curry acknowledged Monday night.

Deleted but not forgotten.

Curry soon enough deleted his tweet, but the sentiment was clear enough to screenshot. This Mayor’s patience is running out with City Council members who want to playact as Mayor during the last 22 months or so of Curry’s term.

The catalyst for Curry’s statement was a tweet from Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona, which remarked that contrary to Council member LeAnna Cumber’s worries about Downtown Jacksonville, it’s historically one of the safest areas in the city.

Some context (for those who need it): Curry backs Daniel Davis for Mayor. Cumber, who was Curry-aligned in 2019 when she won her Council seat unopposed in his district, has broken with the Curry machine since. She is exploring a run for Mayor and will decide early in 2022, she says.

Cumber isn’t the only Council member looking at the city’s top job. And she’s not the only one getting quoted in TV reports criticizing the state of play in Duval County.

Finance Chair Matt Carlucci, also running for Mayor, has turned yard waste collection into his issue of the week.

“This is a very basic public service citizens pay for with a fee. Because of less than acceptable service caused by manpower shortages, I will address the idea of a credit to Jacksonville customers in finance committee this week.”

Pickups are weeks late in many parts of town. Would a credit help?

The solid waste fee is $12.65 a month, so any credit would essentially be symbolic. But symbolic gestures are good enough in the silly season. The money may not add up to much, but the earned media value for Carlucci can only help.

The Jacksonville City Council has moved far from its near-consensus votes of Curry’s first couple of years in office. People grumbled about a lack of pushback back then and wanted to see more assertiveness from the Council. And now it’s happening and will be a recurrent motif through June 2023.

Look for the helpers.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, both facing voters next year, came to Jacksonville Tuesday in the hopes of promoting the HELPERS Act.

Thanks, Mr. Helper. Image via Marco Rubio’s office.

Rutherford has carried the bill in the House. Rubio is going to carry the Senate companion legislation.

The bill, if passed, creates a no down payment program and a particular loan component for first responders and teachers’ home purchases.

The event was at Jacksonville Fire and Rescue 50 on Kernan Boulevard, in a fast-growing part of the Southside, and the first responder showcase in Jacksonville seems like no accident in the larger context of the campaign.

Recall that firefighters endorsed Patrick Murphy against Rubio in 2016 at a Jacksonville fire station. Also worth noting: likely Democratic nominee Rep. Val Demings is from Jacksonville. Rubio dominated Murphy five years ago in Northeast Florida, but Demings will prove tougher competition in this region than Murphy did.

Cameo uh-oh

The pandemic, policy, and 2022 politics intersected last month, as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist came to Jacksonville to highlight a mobile vaccination site.

Crist shot some video in Jacksonville, including the site itself: a Jacksonville Transportation Authority bus. And he got JTA people into the shot, including the agency’s in-house comms specialist, former Jacksonville journalist David Cawton.

Cawton was acutely aware of the optics of the situation and responded with chagrin when Bold brought up the unintentional cameo (around the 19-second mark of the video).

“Don’t think I’ve tried to get away from a camera harder in years,” Cawton quipped.

JTA did not expect Crist to intend his stopover for campaign purposes, but the incident illustrates how the two can conflate.

When asked last month, the candidate asserted there was no conflict in holding a media-advised campaign event at a vaccination site.

“No, I don’t,” Crist told Florida Politics. “This is about getting the word out and doing what’s right.”

Getting closer

Before Labor Day, we asked Rep. Tracie Davis when she would get into the Democratic Senate District 6 primary for 2022. She told us “soon.”

In terms of the 2022 Primary ballot, expect that she will make a mark when she gets in (Davis is a person of her word).

Tracie Davis may make a move. Image via Florida House.

Jacksonville City Council member Reggie Gaffney reported nearly $200,000 raised in his first month as a candidate, money that went to his “Friends of Reggie Gaffney” political committee and campaign account. More big fundraising is to come for Gaffney, a trusted partner of Republican Mayor Curry and much of the downtown establishment.

Davis will have to make the case that Gaffney is too beholden to that establishment. She has been stepping up her own earned media pace, doing press calls with other leading legislative Democrats this summer on various issues. She will have the support of Tallahassee Democrats, by and large. And given that a Republican has filed already, August 2022 will be a closed primary.

All of that bodes well for Davis. We are expecting her effort to ramp up this month. While the Republican primary in Senate District 4 was choked off by leadership, which looks likely to get Rep. Clay Yarborough as the nominee as it wants, the SD 6 race will be expensive, brutal and interesting through the end.

On the mend

Rep. Jason Fischer sneezed and coughed at a news conference last week highlighting monoclonal therapy for COVID-19. Days later, Fischer revealed that he had caught the virus, and that the Regeneron treatment highlighted by Gov. Ron DeSantis in Jacksonville had helped him.

Jason Fischer is getting better. Image via Florida House.

Fischer delayed his vaccination until earlier this summer, suspending his allergy treatments to get the shots. He and everyone else in the camera shot at the DeSantis presser was unmasked.

The vaccine, recent though it was, did not prevent his breakthrough case.

Fischer has documented his recovery, which has not been seamless but described as making “progress.” He told us Tuesday he can smell and taste again after briefly losing those senses during the worst of his case.

If you need Regeneron treatment, please check PatientPortalFL.com for available appointments. The state-run site is at the Jacksonville Public Library. Hospitals also have the treatment available.

Oooh that smell

Good news for the noses of those on the Westside who walk outside and smell the “Pine-Sol” in the air.

The city of Jacksonville will devote $125,000 to investigate what First Coast News calls a “sickening, vile odor.” But an odor as of now without a verified cause.

To watch the story, click on the image below:

Envirosuite’s study will begin in October. This includes “round-the-clock monitoring by placing 11 devices sensitive to hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and volatile organic compounds in areas of concern.”

The company suspected of the odor, International Flavors and Fragrances, denies the claim, noting that its research has said the primary environmental contaminant in the area is styrene, used to make plastics.

Those seeking to make environmental complaints, whether in the Murray Hill area where the major criticisms of the current smells are prominent or elsewhere, can do so via a City of Jacksonville complaint portal.

New website

Downtown Vision is kicking off the fall with a new website for new and perhaps future residents of Jacksonville’s core city.

LiveDTJax.com looks to increase Downtown’s residential base, currently at 6,800 residents after years of renovations and concerted efforts. The goal ultimately is 10,000, crucial for the vitality of the area.

“Downtown has so many unique residences, whether you prefer historic rehabs or new construction, riverfront or skyline views, there’s something for everyone,” said Katherine Hardwick, Downtown Vision Vice President of Marketing. “We’re excited to help recruit new residents and show them the ropes once they move Downtown.”

The website functions as a portal to downtown residences, allowing for searchable criteria such as bathrooms, bedrooms, and amenities. Virtual tours offer a look-see, and the platform integrates with the #DTJax events calendar.

When people move to the Jacksonville area, downtown isn’t always the first place they look to live. But if they are looking, Downtown Vision’s website can help them have local knowledge even if they are new to the 904.

COVID-19 concerns

The Duval County School District tightened mask policy this week, requiring a medical opt-out form. But doctors Tuesday warned that doesn’t mean COVID-19 isn’t a concern.

“We are better than a few weeks ago, but our cases remain steady and are not declining,” UF Health Jacksonville CEO Russ Armistead said during a call with media Monday, reported by WJXT. “We are hopeful that we don’t get another surge following the holiday.”

Mask mandates are a good start, but they aren’t a solution, says Russ Armistead.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mobeen Rathore noted that these surges do have consequences.

“Kids do get sick. Kids do get hospitalized. Kids do get sick and go to the ICU, get intubated, be on a ventilator and even be on ECMO, which is a heart-lung machine, sort of a last-ditch effort to support these children. Unfortunately, children do die. In fact, many of you probably heard the news; there’s a 17-year-old who died in St. Johns County just in the last few days, so I think we have to be very sure and understand that kids can get serious illness. And I can tell you that in the almost 18 months ending in June, we had three deaths in our area in children. That’s one death every six months. And just in July and August, we had four deaths in children, so that’s two deaths a month.”

On Tuesday night, the School Board mandated that “moderate” transmission rates over a seven-day rolling average would allow for the policy to be relaxed. Rates, now hovering in the low teens, would have to fall below 8%.

Brooklyn bounce

The proposed redevelopment of the former Florida Times-Union colossus in the Brooklyn neighborhood continues to look more likely.

Say goodbye. Image via Florida Memory.

As reported by the Jacksonville Daily Record, the Downtown Investment Authority OK’d the plans for a $182.2 million development. Atlanta’s Fuqua Development LLC will handle the redevelopment.

The contemplated One Riverside Place project would involve demolition of the TU site, favoring a mixed-use development. A riverfront restaurant was a condition DIA pressed for and got; it will be a full-service eatery.

Questions remain as to the suitability of the proposed development for Brooklyn, an industrial area historically that has been aggressively gentrified of late. One critic called it a “congested grouping of suburban structures.”

The Mayor’s Budget Review Committee is the next stop for this proposal. City Council would then have approval, pending legislation being filed.

Clay student health

Care Connect+, a social health organization through Flagler Health+, will be working with the 42 schools in Clay County to offer increased access to mental health services for the more than 40,000 students in the district.

Clay is joining St. Johns, Putnam and Nassau counties adding Care Connect+ to provide services for Northeast Florida school districts.

Be Resilient and Voice Emotions (BRAVE) is a program encouraging area youth to be proactive on their mental health, be open to receiving help, and support access to behavioral health services via care navigation and technology.

Flagler Health+ kiosks will help support student wellness with on-demand health care. Image via Jacksonville Daily Record.

As part of Care Connect+, the program works with the whole family to address the social pressures on health to ensure students get the right care in the right place at the right time.

Flagler Health+ will be managing $60,000 of the county’s Mental Health Allocation funding the expansion of BRAVE in Clay County Schools. This funding is from SB 7030, known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School bill.

This new partnership will help up to 300-400 students get access to mental health services. BRAVE offers multiple resources, including care and navigation services, virtual mental health counseling visits, and a 24-hour crisis text line.

Care Connect+ takes a more comprehensive intake process, allowing staff to identify unmet social needs for the entire family, eligible resources, and the most appropriate behavioral health provider for the student. This includes services provided by Clay Behavioral Health Center, Impower, Right Path Behavioral, Rivers Edge Counseling, Youth Crisis Center and Children’s Home Society.

In Florida, six out of 10 youth (66.8%) who are depressed and are most at-risk for depression do not receive any mental health treatment. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, experts agree the need for mental health services is greater now than ever.

“It is an honor to announce this partnership between Care Connect+ and the Clay County District Schools,” said Flagler Health+ President and CEO Jason Barrett. “Working together, we can address the complex issues around behavioral health that are facing our youth today. Today’s announcement means that BRAVE now provides this vitally important programming serving youth in four Northeast Florida school districts.”

Launched in 2019, Care Connect+ for youth began in the St. Johns County School District and with support from THE PLAYERS. Before BRAVE’s implementation, only 35% of students were referred to a mental health provider and were seen by a medical professional.

With the BRAVE program, that rate has increased to 93%.

Hall of fame health

Flagler Health+ is one of five new premier medical care organizations partnering with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Health network of providers, among the now 17 sites offering services to any former National Football League player or NFL team employee and their families.

“The partners that continue to join us are the best of the best, and we consider ourselves so fortunate to have these premier institutions, health systems, and physician groups — some of the most accomplished in the world — come alongside us in our mission as we look to impact lives across the country,” said Hall of Fame Health CEO Jeremy Hogue.

Located in Canton, Ohio, the birthplace of the NFL, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization to honor the heroes of the game, preserve its history, promote values, and celebrate excellence.

Flagler Health+ makes the Hall of Fame roster. Image via AP.

In October, NFL Hall of Fame Health introduced 12 “founding partners” to its care network — a group of top-rated hospitals, academic medical centers, physician groups, and orthopedic specialists in areas of the country with a high concentration of NFL retirees.

The addition of Flagler Health+ will incorporate more areas of the country that are home to former players, their spouses, and eligible dependents.

“It is a tremendous honor to join these other premier health care organizations in partnership with the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” said Barrett. “Our Northeast Florida community is the home to many retired NFL players, and it is rewarding to being able to provide care for them and their families.”

Joining Flagler Health+ as a new member of the Hall of Fame Health network are NorthShore University HealthSystem, Ohio Health, Proliance Surgeons, and Twin Cities Orthopedics.

Flagler Health+ is the exclusive partner in Northeast Florida, home to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and further aligns its collaboration with Andrews Sports Medicine, an internationally acclaimed sports medicine practice.

Trevor time

The first order of business for the Jaguars is to break a 15-game losing streak, dating to last season. They have a great opportunity to do that Sunday when they travel to Houston to meet the Texans.

The two teams experienced complete opposite off-seasons.

Although Jacksonville finished 1-15 last season, they enter this campaign with optimism that things are turning around. They coaxed Urban Meyer to leave the comfort of the broadcast booth and return to the sidelines as their new head coach.

And, of course, they spent the first overall choice in the NFL Draft on quarterback Trevor Lawrence. NFL talent scouts say Lawrence is the best QB prospect to come along since Andrew Luck joined the Indianapolis Colts in 2012.

No QB controversy in Jacksonville. Image via Jaguars.

To solidify their commitment to Lawrence, the Jags traded last year’s quarterback, Gardner Minshew II, to Philadelphia near the end of training camp.

The Texans, meanwhile, enter the season off a cataclysmic series of events.

Most significantly, star quarterback Deshaun Watson demanded a trade after the team hired new general manager Nick Caserio and head coach David Culley. Shortly after that, multiple women filed lawsuits against Watson, alleging sexual misconduct.

The NFL launched its investigation into the matter. Watson is not expected to play this season, or maybe ever. That leaves journeyman Tyrod Taylor as Houston’s starting quarterback.

The Texans also traded community hero and franchise fixture J.J. Watt, further disenchanting a disgusted fan base.

Once a perennial playoff team, Houston lost its final five games last season and finished 4-12.

Back on the Jags, the team counts on big things from second-year receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. In Jacksonville’s final exhibition game, a 34-14 win over Dallas, Shenault caught all three of his targets for 33 yards and a touchdown.

The Jags are about a three-point favorite Sunday.

Staff Reports


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