Jacksonville Bold for 1.19.22: The Governor’s map

Jacksonville road map area. Closeup macro view
The Governor weighs in on redistricting; chaos ensues.

The Governor’s map

Redistricting took a right turn Sunday night when the Governor’s Office submitted a suggested Congressional map that looks a lot different from the legislative product in the House and Senate.

The map addresses “legal concerns” that the Governor’s Office has with those proposals.

“We have legal concerns with the congressional redistricting maps under consideration in the Legislature. We have submitted an alternative proposal, which we can support, that adheres to federal and state requirements and addresses our legal concerns while working to increase district compactness, minimize county splits where feasible, and protect minority voting populations. Because the Governor must approve any congressional map passed by the Legislature, we wanted to provide our proposal as soon as possible and in a transparent manner,” General Counsel Ryan Newman told Action News Jax.

Criticisms of the DeSantis map were quick to manifest.

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson was especially aggrieved.

“People were contacting me from all over when the map came out,” Lawson told POLITICO Playbook Monday night. “They were concerned about things like what it would do to places like Jacksonville’s urban core, which is African American. It does not sit well with people. For nearly 30 years, it has had minority representation.”

Up until 2016, it had Jacksonville representation. Could it get it again if this map somehow prevails?

It gives the region two Congressional seats again for the first time since Corrine Brown lost in 2016 amid indictment and a new Jax-to-Tally map to which Brown herself objected.

The map envisions a District 3, encompassing Clay, Nassau, and Jacksonville’s Westside, Northside, and Eastside, and creating a genuine culture clash of a district. But one voted for Trump and DeSantis with over 50% of the vote in recent elections.

District 4 takes Southeastern Duval, including the Beaches, and adds St. Johns County, including St. Augustine Beach, where current Rep. Mike Waltz lives. Not much culture clash there. And an even more significant Republican advantage.

This map would be the end of Lawson’s drives east and west on I-10 and would also be the end of a three-decade string of gerrymandered Jacksonville seats that saw districts stretched to include territory far away from Duval.

As Lawson suggests, it would also be the end of a protected district for Black voters. A district similar to Lawson’s appears on every draft congressional map produced thus far by House or Senate staff for a reason. The district is considered a Tier 1-protected minority access district, and the Voting Rights Act forbids any diminishment of minority voters’ ability to elect a candidate of their choosing.

By effectively eliminating Lawson’s district, the Governor’s map has no district in north Florida where Black residents make up more than 40% of the voting-age population.

The closest is the proposed CD 3, where Black people make up 30.75% of the electorate, compared to 45.24% in the existing CD 5 and 42.8% in the Senate proposal.

Primrose talks port

Nick Primrose, chief of regulatory compliance of JAXPORT, briefed the Jacksonville City Council Transportation, Energy & Utilities committee Tuesday on progress at the port.

Nick Primrose gives a JAXPORT update filled with rosy news. Image via JAXPORT.

There was a lot to talk about.

Some of it was a near-term success. In the wake of DeSantis calling for ships from the West Coast to bring cargo to Florida last year, Primrose discussed how JAXPORT became an effective Plan B a few times in recent months, helping to move poultry to the Caribbean and military surplus equipment from Charleston.

His remarks were also forward-looking, including noting that the ribbon cutting for the harbor deepening project that has taken the better part of a decade will be sometime this summer, as Jacksonville continues to try to compete in a new world of shipping.

Three new cranes will be added in the next couple of years, Primrose noted. Additionally, expansion is sought near Talleyrand to build refrigerated “last mile” storage, with that location abutting rail lines.

JAXPORT also plans to bring an environmental consultant aboard. A solicitation for that position is forthcoming, along with a carbon inventory and plans to reduce the port’s carbon footprint.

Deegan doldrums?

All indications are that at least one more Democrat will file to run for Jacksonville Mayor in the coming months. The question is who.

Sen. Audrey Gibson continues to drop hints about a run. She is term-limited this year. And she was overheard in Tallahassee saying her next stop was the Mayor’s Office.

Audrey Gibson keeps hinting at a mayoral run.

This surprised our Tallahassee correspondent, but not us here at Bold so much. We asked her previously if she was looking at a run; she did not shoot those rumors down.

Now, we hear that both Gibson and school board member Warren Jones may be looking at the race. One source says “donor calls” are happening.

Wherever Jones is in his deliberations, it’s clear Gibson is on a timeline to decide, and the 2022 Legislative Session is most of that timeline.

Gibson and/or Jones (we don’t see both running, assuming either one does) bring political experience to the table Deegan lacks. Both have spent decades in office, and either one getting into the race would be an interesting problem for the Deegan campaign and the city’s Democratic Party. They haven’t had multiple serious candidates for Mayor for decades, and how Duval Dems handle this, assuming anything comes of this, will be worth watching.

Home rule hurrah

Sen. Travis Hutson has filed an amendment to a controversial preemption bill that could soften the blow to home rule ahead of its hearing in Rules Thursday.

The amendment to the legislation (SB 280) addresses many of the concerns raised by local government advocates at a first committee stop.

Travis Hutson gives home rule some cover.

“When an ordinance is arbitrary or unreasonable, we don’t want to see Floridians lose their rights and small-business owners lose their livelihood as these cases languish in the court system. The bill gives priority to these cases, so they can be resolved as quickly as possible,” said Hutson, a Palm Coast Republican.

“My amendment will maintain those key provisions of the bill, while incorporating a great deal of feedback from local governments that we heard at the first committee stop and (from) those who have contacted me directly as I have been working on this bill. In particular, the League of Cities and the Association of Counties have played an important role, and we have worked to incorporate their suggestions.”

The legislation would still require counties and municipalities to provide a business impact estimate before passing local ordinances, but the amendment makes clear governments can outsource estimation to outside groups, including civic organizations like chambers of commerce.

President who?

Legislation that would provide a public records exemption for information about applicants seeking a state university or college presidential position cleared its first House committee stop Tuesday in a 14-4 vote, but it did not make it through unscathed.

The measure (HB 703), filed by Clay County Republican Rep. Sam Garrison, is known all too well by state lawmakers. This will be the proposal’s eighth time trying to cross the finish line in Florida’s Legislature, with Garrison introducing the bill as “further proof it’s hard to keep a good bill down.”

Eighth time is the charm for Sam Garrison?

“House Bill 703 seeks to ensure the Florida law does not disincentivize our state university system for college institutions attracting the deepest, most qualified diverse group of applicants,” Garrison said.

However, the House bill received a bit of a touch-up in its first House committee, the Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee.

The bill would create a public records exemption applicable to the pool of public university and college presidential applicants, though information on the selected finalists would be made available. The original legislation provided 21 days for information on the finalists to be made public; an amendment put forth by Garrison and approved by Tuesday’s committee reduced the timeframe to 14 days.

A Senate version of the bill (SB 520), filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, cleared its first committee last Tuesday. However, that legislation has yet to be revised with an amended timeframe.

The House passed a version of the bill during the 2021 Session, but it did not clear the Senate.

Get the lead out

A Jacksonville Democrat is carrying the House version of legislation that would tackle the problem of lead in drinking water in schools by mandating water bottle filling stations.

By doing this, Rep. Angie Nixon’s HB 1245 would “ensure that drinking water in Florida’s schools is lead-free and meets expert established safety standards,” according to a news release.

Angie Nixon’s bill has a Senate companion.

“Lead is a potent neurotoxin affecting children’s learning, growth, and behavior. Children in schools, many low-income and Black communities all across this state, are at risk of being poisoned simply by drinking water out of a fountain they falsely assume will be safe. The Florida Constitution guarantees our children the right to safe and equitable education, and that’s what I fight for every day. I look forward to working with House members on both sides of the aisle to make 2022 the year we get the lead out and save our children,” said Rep. Nixon.

Sen. Gary Farmer, carrying the Senate version, added, “Implementing safeguards to ensure our school children have access to safe drinking water is a nonpartisan issue we can all get behind — and this is the year to do it! Within the last two weeks, the U.S. Department of Education released the final allotment of over $2 billion in funding coming from the American Recovery Plan Act. There’s a time limit on this funding, and ensuring clean drinking water for our kids is an unquestionable obligation for this Legislature. There is no guarantee these funds will be allocable the next time the legislative session rolls around, which makes it absolutely imperative for us to act now.”

Nixon’s bill has four committee stops ahead, while Farmer’s Senate version has three.

Brandon Biz

There is no absolute certainty yet on legislative maps. Despite current proposals having Adam Brandon running in a different district than the HD 16 for which he is currently filed, he’s getting a key vote of confidence from Jacksonville stakeholders at the end of the month.

The JaxBIZ board plans a fundraiser for Brandon at the end of the month. The candidate will be accepting donations for his campaign account and his political committee, Genuine Conservatives. Though the ultimate map is in flux, the event is a crucial show of confidence in a first-time candidate with a bright future.

Brandon has been a consistent fundraiser, bringing in $121,000+ to his campaign account so far, with a little more than $10,000 in his political committee.

Fowl play

Jacksonville City councilperson Garrett Dennis fulfilled a long-standing aspiration last weekend, opening his new Carolina Chicken restaurant on Soutel Drive.

Dennis sees his latest business venture as something that brings together a lot of the work he has done in the private and public sectors.

“As I reflect, the restaurant is everything that I’ve been advocating for … Economic Development, Redevelopment of a blighted area, a diverse workforce including returning citizens, and creating more than 20 jobs. There is nothing like coming home, putting your money where your mouth is, and making an impact,” Dennis said.

But he’s not looking to stop at just one location.

“I would love to see a Carolina Chicken in every neighborhood in Jacksonville and beyond.”

We asked for recipe secrets, but the Councilman wasn’t spilling.

“The recipe is a family recipe that has been passed down, and we put our own twist on it,” he said. “Our food is made in-house. It is always hot and fresh.”

Blurred lines

Andrew Pantazi’s recently launched Tributary continues to bring some of the best political analysis in the state, especially regarding the vagaries of the redistricting process and “exposing racial gerrymandering.”

This week, he focused on the soon-to-be-approved Jacksonville City Council maps, which he has noted deliberately pack Black voters north and west of the St. Johns into “four districts ranging from 61% Black to 70% Black. Those districts contain a majority of Duval County’s Black residents.”

Pantazi takes a magnifying glass to street-by-street decisions made in a bipartisan manner on the City Council.

“City Council District 7 needed to add more people in redistricting, but Councilman Reggie Gaffney expressed concerns about adding in too many white people to the 63-percent Black district. As Gaffney considered which census blocks to add to his district from the neighboring white-majority District 2, he had City Planning Director Bill Killingsworth read off the racial demographics for each block,” Pantazi wrote.

Keeping neighborhoods together? Not this Council, Pantazi notes.

“For example, Wesconnett, Murray Hill, Hillcrest, Ortega Farms and Riverside will continue to be split between Districts 9 and 14, with District 9 getting the parts of those neighborhoods with more Black residents while District 14 gets the parts with more white residents.”

Politicians love their Riverside photo ops when they want to reach out to younger voters, but when it comes down to keeping the neighborhood intact, it’s not their problem. And the same goes for Murray Hill, another victim of its diversity in terms of getting cohesive representation.

“District 9 and District 14 split Riverside along the railroad tracks, so that part of North Riverside is separated from the rest. While Murray Hill is split into two, with the Whiter parts in 14 and the parts with more Black residents in 9.”

Show about nothing?

Former mayoral Chief of Staff Chris Hand issued a long-form argument that politics in Jacksonville should be about real issues and community stewardship rather than power politics and big checks last week.

Chris Hand throws down the gauntlet.

“’Seinfeld’ was, deliberately and famously, a show about nothing. As City of Jacksonville (COJ) elections unfold over the next 16 months — with a Council special election concluding on Feb. 22 and contests for Mayor and all 19 City Council seats scheduled for March/May 2023 — early signs suggest this important process has the potential to become Seinfeld-esque,” Hand wrote on his Medium page.

He notes, correctly, that the Special Election runoff campaign has seen little in the way of messaging on issues since the field narrowed almost six weeks ago. Cautioning that may be a preview of the 2023 elections, he challenged aspirant candidates.

“The long struggle with COVID-19 has created or exacerbated challenges in need of solutions, and it requires that Jacksonville carefully consider its strategic plan, so the city is well-positioned for success in a potential post-pandemic era. With those stakes, our community cannot afford for the next local elections to be about nothing. They have to be about something and involve a substantive conversation with citizens to shape Jacksonville’s future,” Hand wrote.

Read the whole piece here.

Claptrap

Recreational and commercial blue crab traps in all waters of the St. Johns River system were removed from the water as of Jan. 16, the first day of a 10-day trap closure.

This closure will give groups authorized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) the opportunity to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps.

The closure includes all waters of the St. Johns River system, associated lakes, and tributaries from west of the St. Johns River’s intersection with the Intracoastal Canal, through and including Lake Hellen Blazes in Brevard County.

It’s blue crab trap cleanup time. Image via FWC.

Traps may be placed back in the water starting Jan. 26, although the FWC may reduce closures if it is determined that the number of lost and abandoned traps in the region will take less time to remove. Blue crabs may be harvested with other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up traps until the trapping season reopens. Blue crab harvesters may also use standard blue crab traps during the closure if the traps are attached to a dock or other private property.

Lost and abandoned blue crab traps are a problem in the blue crab fishery because they can trap crabs and fish when left in the water. They can also be unsightly in the marine environment, damage sensitive habitats, and pose navigational hazards to boaters on the water.

The closure is one of three regional, 10-day blue crab trap closures in 2022 on Florida’s Atlantic coast. There are six regional closures total: three in odd-numbered years on the west coast and three in even-numbered years on the east coast.

For more information regarding the FWC’s trap-retrieval program, blue crab trap closure dates, and regulations and cleanup events, go online to MyFWC.com/Marine and click “Traps and Debris.” For additional information, call 850-487-0554.

 

Personnel note

Jacksonville-based logistics juggernaut Crowley announced Wednesday that it’s bringing Marcus Jadotte on board as senior vice president of government relations.

In his new role, he will helm Crowley’s legislative and regulatory advocacy efforts and boost awareness of its growing defense and civilian government services offerings among federal, state and local officials. He will be based in Washington, D.C.

Marcus Jadotte takes the helm as Crowley’s head lobbyist.

“I am pleased to join Crowley and look forward to advancing the company’s best-in-class solutions for the U.S. maritime industry and beyond, including the company’s burgeoning energy, transportation and technology services,” Jadotte said.

Jadotte most recently worked as vice president of federal government relations at Raytheon Technologies, one of the largest aerospace and defense contractors in the U.S. He has also worked in the C-suite at aviation services provider AAR and NASCAR.

He also served as assistant secretary for industry and analysis for the International Trade Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce during the Barack Obama administration and at the U.S. Department of Labor during the Bill Clinton administration.

Jadotte’s Florida connections include stints as chief of staff to U.S. Reps. Peter Deutsch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz as well as an economics degree earned at Florida State University.

“Through his extensive experience bridging the public and private sectors, Marcus will further strengthen Crowley’s engagement with policymakers through leadership and outreach that builds trust, innovative policies and effective advocacy across our services for commercial and government customers,” said Parker Harrison, Crowley’s senior vice president and general counsel.

Zoo prez

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens announced Wednesday that it’s tapped Dr. Jeff Ettling to succeed exiting president and CEO Tony Vecchio.

“As we look to the future, the board is confident that Jeff is the right person to carry on the long legacy of supporting conservation programs and providing the highest level of animal wellness,” said Chuck Ged, who chairs the Zoo’s board. “Jeff’s experience, commitment to operational excellence, and passion for wildlife make him well qualified to lead the organization into the next phase as we continue to drive change.”

Dr. Jeff Ettling is the new Jacksonville Zoo point person. Image via Sedgwick County Zoo.

Ettling has run the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita since 2017, with a focus on enhancing animal habitats and animal care. He also prioritized educating the community about the importance of wildlife conservation.

His tenure leading the zoo was preceded by 21 years working at the Saint Louis Zoo as a curator managing one of the largest collections of amphibians and reptiles in the world.

“I am honored to join the talented team at JZG, board members, and dedicated network of community, donors, and partners in this role,” Ettling said. “I look forward to extending these relationships as we build on the achievements of the past 100 years and chart the future of JZG together.”

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens recently launched capital campaign will be one of Ettling’s top priorities, as will oversight of the 3-year strategic plan to help JZG become one of the best zoos in the country.

Ettling earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville and his Ph.D. in ecology, evolution and systematics from the University of Missouri, Saint Louis. He has also served as director of both the Center for Conservation in Western Asia and the Ron Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation for the Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute.

Shrimp shirts

Baseball season isn’t quite starting yet, but Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp fans with a taste for graphic design again have an opportunity to design a T-shirt for the Marlins’ AAA affiliate ballclub.

Submissions are easy, just a matter of uploading an image of the proposed design between now and Jan. 30 to the team’s website.

Calling all creatives; Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp needs a new T-shirt. Image via Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

“The Jumbo Shrimp will select five finalists from the submissions for a Crustacean Nation fan vote will take place from Feb. 1-6. The winner, who will be announced on Monday, Feb. 7, will receive 10 tickets to the April 9 game, 20 of the winning shirts, and a ceremonial first pitch that evening,” a news release from the team says.

Two thousand shirts with the winning design will be given away at that same ballgame.

Team colors must be used in the design. For official contest rules and regulations, click here.

Staff Reports



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