Jacksonville Bold for 3.9.22: Bye Bye Bean
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 3/07/22-Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, center, holds hands with his wife Abby, as he receives a standing ovation after giving his farewell speech, Monday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

A lion of the Senate says farewell.

Bye Bye Bean

Sine Die means goodbye for a titan of the Florida Senate.

The Senate bid farewell to Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean, and everyone from Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush to his colleagues in the Chamber lauded the Senator’s singular empathy and ability to connect with people, both in the Legislature and far beyond.

“Though he’s #4 in your district handbook,” Sen. Jason Brodeur japed, “he’s #1 in your hearts.”

Sen. Keith Perry called Bean a “larger than life” person with one flaw.

“He doesn’t have a poker face,” said Perry, who would know: Bean and Perry both play cards as part of the “Fight Club.”

Sen. Kelli Stargel noted the friendship between her family and Bean’s and described how Bean invariably thinks about people who aren’t in the spotlight.

“Looking back, people will tell Aaron Bean stories of what you’ve done, how you’ve impacted them, how you make them feel,” Stargel extolled.

Sen. Loranne Ausley noted some “really, really rough years” in health care budgeting back when she and Bean were in the House, extolling Bean’s “work for the state of Florida and heart for the state of Florida.”

Sen. Darryl Rouson echoed those comments.

“People will never forget how you made them feel,” said Rouson.

Sen. Tom Wright described feeling like a “deer in headlights” when he was appointed to the Senate, saying that Bean made him feel “special.”

“I hope to be half as good as you as a Senator,” Wright said.

“You absorb a lot of people’s pain,” noted Sen. Jason Pizzo, who described Bean showing up after Surfside to do whatever he could.

“I don’t know how you exercise cathartic behavior,” Pizzo added. “Your energy is only surpassed by your capacity to absorb other people’s pain. And that’s what I’m most appreciative of.

“Choosing joy,” meanwhile, was how Sen. Dennis Baxley summed up Bean’s approach to life.

Duval County colleague Audrey Gibson lauded Bean’s “therapeutic” energy level and hinted at life after the Senate after all.

“I know we’re going to do some other things back in Jacksonville,” Gibson added, suggesting a political future for both.

Bean joked that he wasn’t “good at goodbyes,” noting that Senate President Wilton Simpson scotched his consideration of the “Irish goodbye.”

Bean noted his unlikely path to his current position in remarks also.

“I was never supposed to win. I was always told there was no pathway,” said Bean, who noted that repeatedly, he did so against the odds.

“Thank goodness I didn’t listen to naysayers. I listened to cheerleaders,” Bean said, giving credit to influential figures of yesteryear and the present, family and operatives, all of whom “encouraged (him) along the way.”

Bean has made 186 ½ round trips from Fernandina to Tallahassee. The next ½ trip will likely be after Sine Die, but there will be other trips to come, the Senator suggested.

“I’ll be watching as a private citizen,” Bean said. “You’ll find me climbing another mountain.”

It’s all but certain that current Rep. Clay Yarborough will replace Bean in the Senate, one of the few sure things in a 2022 cycle that will see new maps and fresh faces on the House side.

But Jacksonville Bold will be keeping one eye on Bean’s next move.

Nothin’ but net

The Legislature passed a bill to set a timeline to end net metering, a move critics argue would devastate Florida’s rooftop solar industry.

The measure (HB 741) aims to end subsidies the bill’s sponsors said would overburden non-solar customers through a process known as net metering. Under net metering, Florida’s electric utilities are mandated to buy back “banked” energy stored by homes that gather more energy than they produce at the retail rate. That energy is added to the utility’s grid and redistributed to non-solar customers.

Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure filed the House bill and Fleming Island Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley carried it through the Senate. The Senate approved the legislation 24-15 on Monday after the House passed it 83-31 on Wednesday.

Jennifer Bradley makes her case.

The Legislature established the current system in 2008 to subsidize the nascent solar industry.

“This bill is fair,” Bradley told Senators. “It’s a thoughtful glide path to get us to a no subsidy.”

The bill begins kicking in at the start of 2023 when panel owners would start getting 75% credit. That would fall to 60% in 2026 and 50% in 2027 and then drop to the market rate in 2029.

The measure also will grandfather in solar panel owners and lessees, allowing them to maintain their entry credit rate for 20 years.

MOSH pit

House and Senate budget writers have agreed to send $103,000 to the Museum of Science & History of Jacksonville so it can expand its early learning programs.

According to the appropriations request, sponsored by Rep. Yarborough and Sen. Bean, the funding would go toward MOSH’s Early Learning Initiative programs for children ages three to five.

“The ELI promotes school readiness in the enriched environment of a Museum,” it states. “MOSH serves over 45,000 elementary school children each year, from 14 Florida counties. The ELI curriculum and facility upgrades are in preparation for a new museum, MOSH Genesis, which will break ground in 2022. Other local confirmed support for ELI is $580,000 in the grant year.”

As a parting shot, Aaron Bean joins Clay Yarborough for an early learning boost in Jacksonville,

MOSH originally requested $300,000. The spending breakdown shows MOSH planned to use $103,000 for playground equipment, curriculum and materials as well as parent-teacher events.

Another $197,000 would be used for playground fencing and ADA ramp upgrade, bathroom remodel, and elevator safety modifications.

The Senate set aside matches the playground equipment line. The House, meanwhile, ignored the request through several rounds of negotiations before eventually agreeing after unresolved budget issues were bumped to conference chairs.

Black banks

Duval County Republican Party Chair Dean Black has collected more than $350,000 for his campaign in House District 15.

The fundraising total includes $164,910 raised through his official campaign account — including $100,000 in candidate loans — as well as $185,201 raised through his political committee, True Conservatives.

Harvest time again for Dean Black.

The campaign cash came in February, his first month as a candidate. The committee total includes $11,000 raised last month and $174,000 raised in the previous year, when he was considering a run in the old House District 11.

The campaign report shows more than 50 donors who chipped in $1,000, the maximum allowable contribution for state legislative races. The list includes former Ambassador John Rood and Vestcor Companies, which he chairs. Jacksonville business owner Tom Petway and many members of the Petway family also showed up with max checks.

Other notable backers include W.J. “Jud” Sapp, Dr. Roy Hinman, Brian Crossley, Darryl Grubbs, Fitzhugh Powell, Billie Tucker, Daniel Bean and Hakimian Holdings.

“Kim and I are thrilled at the outpouring of support from throughout Northeast Florida during the first month of our campaign,” Black said in a news release. “I look forward to carrying our momentum and message in the months ahead to the people of District 15 and be a strong, proven and dependable champion in Tallahassee.”

The campaign spent just $695 last month, entering March with $164,215 in the bank. Black’s committee has $161,597 on hand, for an overall total of $325,812 on Feb. 28.

The new HD 15 includes western Duval and all of Nassau, partially overlapping with the old HD 11. It will likely perform Republican in the General Election. The district supported the recent campaigns of Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2018 and former President Donald Trump in 2020, with each candidate receiving more than 63% of the vote.

Two candidates are filed in HD 11 who could redesignate for HD 15: Bo Hodges and Emily Nunez. Both are Republicans.

Money moves

Dollars continue to pile up ahead of Jacksonville’s 2023 mayoral race.

City Councilmember LeAnna Gutierrez Cumber will report raising another $228,000 to her political committee, JAX First, in filings reflecting February fundraising.

“Two notable names. Ellen Wiss — former President of the Women’s Giving Alliance and founder of READ USA. Elaine Ashourian — principal at Ash Properties, one of the largest property developers in Jacksonville,” notes a source close to the Cumber committee.

LeAnna Cumber makes some solid money moves.

All told, Cumber is at over $2 million raised since launching the political committee September, good for second place in the pre-candidate fundraising race.

Building a Better Economy, the political committee of Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce head Daniel Davis, had nearly $3.5 million on hand as of the end of January, a month in which the PC raised nearly $370,000.

Cumber and Davis, neither of whom have filed for the office yet, continue to dominate official candidates in terms of fundraising. Through January, Democrat Donna Deegan had roughly $350,000 on hand between her campaign account and her political committee, roughly double the cash on hand for Republican Council member Al Ferraro.

Starting strong

Republican Raul Arias, a small-business person running replace termed-out Danny Becton in City Council District 11, is announcing $40,000 raised in his first month as a candidate between his campaign account and political committee, Northeast Florida Values.

Raul Arias hits the campaign trail running. Image via Raul Arias.

Among the notable donors:  Commissioner Jeremiah Blocker, Michael Munz, Hector Pagan, Summit Construction Management Group, and “For a Strong Florida,” a political committee associated with Council member Rory Diamond.

Finance reports show the committee pulled in $20,000 and spent nothing. As of Wednesday afternoon, Arias’ campaign report was not yet viewable on the Duval County Supervisor of Elections website.

Republicans Norman Brewer Jr. and Annalyn Valasquez-Insco are also running for the seat. Brewer has raised $67,875 through Feb. 28, including $53,000 in candidate loans. Valasquez-Insco has raised $130.

Qualifying for the March 2023 first election runs from Jan. 9-13, 2023. If no candidate gets a simple majority, the top two finishers, regardless of party, would move into a May runoff in the General Election.

JEA justice

Machinations to sell Jacksonville’s public utility a few years ago resulted in two indictments this week, per the U.S. Department of Justice.

Former CEO Aaron Zahn and chief financial officer Ryan Wannemacher face charges of “conspiring to steal and obtain by fraud funds from the City of Jacksonville, which would have been generated from the sale of the JEA, Jacksonville’s municipal electric and water utility company.”

Aaron Zahn in better times. Image via A.G. Gancarski.

“If convicted on all counts, Zahn and Wannemacher each face up to 25 years in federal prison,” the Justice Department release asserts.

At issue: the “lucrative bonus plan” that would have allowed the indicted duo and other top JEA executives to make millions of dollars on a sale.

“The indictment alleges that Zahn and Wannemacher made material misrepresentations about and otherwise hid the true nature of the PUP from the JEA Board, members of the Jacksonville City Council, other JEA executives and members of the public. During the ITN, Zahn crafted minimum requirements for the sale of JEA that would appeal to the JEA Board, members of City Council, and the public and, at the same time, ensure that the PUP bonus plan would pay out millions of dollars to holders of PUP units, the overwhelming majority of which would have been available to Zahn, Wannemacher, and certain others, had JEA been sold,” the DOJ asserts.

The lead prosecutor on this case, A. Tysen Duva, is a veteran in the Jacksonville circuit and has been involved in other criminal corruption trials in recent years involving local political figures.

Profit potential

While Zahn may be facing legal consequences, he looks to be in a position to at least pay lawyers if he gets anywhere close to the asking price for his Jacksonville Beach home.

Zahn paid less than $1.2 million for a 7 bedroom/6 bath manse on S. 15th Street, which sounds closer to Beaches Energy territory than JEA itself. But with an asking price of just south of $3 million, the former CEO can make out on the flip.

Aaron Zahn’s former cozy cottage is on the market.

“The house was listed Feb. 25, five days before the indictment was issued March 2 in the U.S. District Court, Middle District, Jacksonville Division, charging Zahn with two counts of conspiring to steal and obtain by fraud city funds that would have been generated by the sale of city utility JEA,” notes the Jacksonville Daily Record, which broke the news of the sale.

The next owner had better be ready to spend, meanwhile.

“Zillow’s payment calculator states that a buyer with a 720 credit rating would need a $590,000 down payment, and the monthly payment for a 30-year loan at 3.75% APR would be $10,855 per month,” the Daily Record asserted.

Moran money

Audrey Moran, a candidate for Duval County Judge, launched her campaign’s fundraising in February … and showed support from a wide cross-section of community stakeholders in raising over $212,000, with $100,000 from a personal loan.

Audrey Moran has a long history of leading on moral issues.

Moran, who ran for Mayor in 2011 as a Republican, drew from some pockets of traditional GOP support, such as former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver and former Mayor John Delaney.

But name Democrats also back Moran, including former City Council candidate Sunny Gettinger.

As we observed when she launched, Moran’s 2011 campaign for Mayor led to unintended consequences. In the First Election, she and former Jacksonville General Counsel Rick Mullaney essentially knocked each other out, allowing social conservative Mike Hogan and Democrat Alvin Brown to advance to the General.

We do not expect a four-way race for judge here, so the dynamics play out better for Moran than 11 years ago.

Recovered history

During lunch Thursday, Jacksonville residents and those beyond have a unique opportunity to gain experience about the area’s abandoned African American cemeteries.

The Jessie Ball DuPont Fund will host an online seminar spotlighting history many may not know about.

Jacksonville’s lost African American cemeteries offer a teachable moment.

“In Jacksonville, Florida’s oldest major city, the remains of those once enslaved and those who helped rebuild the city following the Great Fire of 1901 lie in abandoned places, under segregation-era parks, industrial sites and housing developments. Explore with us the legacy of those sacred spaces and their impact on our city and our neighbors today.”

Panelists are all subject matter experts. Ennis Davis of The Jaxson Magazine is booked, as is Adrienne Burke, AICP, Esq., Miami Dade Principal Planner, who also has a long history in Northeast Florida. Sarah Miller, Director of Florida Public Archaeology Network’s Northeast Florida Region, is also a confirmed participant.

Lineup locked in

The Celtic Music & Heritage Festival and the Highland Games announced the lineup of musical acts set to perform at the two-day event.

Set for March 12-13 at Francis Field in St. Augustine, the festival is a celebration of Celtic history. Confirmed live music and entertainment acts include Albannach, Dragonfly, Jamison, Seven Nations, Steel City Rovers, SYR, William McRea, and Zach Briggs, along with Blue Lotus World Dance Co., First Coast Highlanders, and lecturer John Miles.

Grab your kilt and enjoy some Celtic pride.

According to festival organizers, Dragonfly is filling in on short notice for the Dublin City Ramblers who will not be able to perform at the Celtic Festival this year as originally planned due to a backup on visa applications at the U.S. Consulate in Ireland. However, the band plans to be at the Festival in 2023.

The stage emcees will be historic actor Chad Light and St. Augustine musician Robert Burns.

Organizers said VIP tickets are sold out for the event and for the whiskey tasting on Friday. Those looking to attend can still grab a general admission ticket for one or both days of the festival online or at the gate. Children 12 years and under and active duty or retired military personnel get in free with proper ID.

This year’s festival marks the 422nd anniversary of the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in America and the first recorded St. Patrick Parade in the world. This year’s parade, produced by Romanza-St. Augustine, will be held Saturday starting at 10 a.m. Parking and free shuttle transportation will be available from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Information on shuttle service and the parade route is available online.

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Eight is enough

It was fitting that Jacksonville Jaguars Hall of Fame inductee (and Ballard Partners alum) Tony Boselli would pick his former Quarterback, Mark Brunell, to induct him this year.

“I protected him a long time. We’ve played a lot of games together. We’ve done a lot of life together,” Boselli said.

Brunell never got to the Hall of Fame level, of course. But in terms of the nucleus of the 1990s Jaguars teams that went to two AFC title games under Coach Tom Coughlin, he is the logical choice.

There were those who suggested Coughlin would be the presenter, but in terms of players, Brunell made sense, especially given Brunell and Boselli were essentially the brand of the team during the glory days.

Brunell of course did not finish his career in Jacksonville, and Boselli technically did not, being moved to the Texans in the expansion draft though he didn’t play for the AFC South rival of the Jags. But for many, these two are still the franchise, which says as much about them and their era as it does about the Jags’ lackluster performance the last two decades.

For Jaguars fans, induction represents validation. The franchise finally has its first Hall of Fame player, and now the momentum hopefully begins for the bid of Fred Taylor, the greatest running back in franchise history and another anchor from the glory days long ago.

Staff Reports


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