Jacksonville Bold for 4.6.22: Demings does Duval

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Val Demings visits Duval: it was less than stellar.

Demings in Duval

Let’s call it “underwhelming.”

The experience that Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Val Demings had Tuesday evening with the Duval County Democratic Black Caucus was something short of a stellar moment in campaigning.

Val Demings’ Duval visit was less than stellar. Image via AP.

She was booked for a 6 p.m. Zoom call but showed up roughly 20 minutes late. By that point, the group had devolved into messy arguments about points of order and agenda items.

And her remarks on the call? Likewise forgettable.

Generalities and soaring rhetoric — the typical10-minute introduction speech.

“I’m on a mission to make sure every man, every woman, every boy, every girl, if they grew up like me or if they didn’t, have the opportunity to fulfill their full potential in a country they say is the greatest in the world,” Demings said, describing her Senate campaign as a way to “make dreams come through for others.”

She extolled the Affordable Care Act, public schools and teachers, a “woman’s right to choose,” the importance of Social Security and Medicare and criminal justice reform.

Although there wasn’t much in the way of questions and answers on the call, Demings departed with the promise of another meeting with the group, where she could go deeper into her platform.

It sounds like there’s a lot of time between now and November, enough time for that kind of thing. But really, there are only about six months left.

In many respects, Demings is a strong candidate. She offers a great story and serious backing: as first reported in Sunburn, Demings raised over $10 million in the first three months of 2022 and has over $13 million on hand.

Democrats didn’t have that kind of mojo in the Senate race six years ago, evidenced by Duval’s notable repudiation of nominee Patrick Murphy.

Incumbent Marco Rubio got 56% of the vote against the South Florida Democrat, and it wasn’t just Duval Republicans.

Demings has the money to do more. She has roots. Will she get it done?

This will be a tougher election for Democrats, who will necessarily be defending Joe Biden’s presidency thus far. There will be no Donald Trump on the ballot. Instead, a popular Republican Governor will top the ticket in an election expected to be a GOP wave.

Absent a serious Primary opponent, Demings is now able to essentially run a General Election campaign. The question is if it matters in places like Duval, where her opponent won by double digits in a historically Democratic-plurality county.

Resolution solution

The Democratic Primary to succeed term-limited Audrey Gibson in the state Senate is heating up, with one candidate looking to block the incumbent from endorsing the other.

Audrey Gibson’s Senate seat is in play.

With that in mind, Jacksonville City Council member Reggie Gaffney filed a resolution, honoring Gibson upon her “retirement.” The text is worthy of extended review, considering Gaffney’s own willingness to work with Republicans.

The Rules Committee moved that legislation Tuesday.

Gaffney’s resolution reads:

“Representative and now Sen. Gibson has developed a reputation as a savvy legislator not afraid to ‘cross the aisle’ and work with legislators of both parties to find common ground and achieve the best possible outcomes for Florida’s citizens. That reputation as a consensus builder sincerely interested in getting things done while remaining a forceful advocate for issues important to her party led to her election in 2018 as Senate Minority Leader by the body’s Democrats.”

Gibson may not be fully retired. The smart money has her running at least one more campaign. And like many, Gibson has her eye on the congressional redistricting map currently being hashed out in Tallahassee; but she has not ruled out a run for Jacksonville Mayor in 2023.

Billboard boost

Upset over legislation from the just-wrapped 2022 Legislative Session? Why not move?

New York City is rolling a billboard campaign targeting people in the Sunshine State piqued by the recently passed Parental Rights in Education legislation.

A news release from the city describes the bill as “Don’t Say Gay,” a phrase adopted by critics of the bill and frequently appearing in media coverage.

You’ll know it when you see it. Image via NYC Mayor’s Office.

From April 4 through May 29, the ads will run in Jacksonville and four other markets: Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach.

NYC officials expect 5 million digital impressions from the campaign, all told.

The controversial legislation “bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade — a targeted attack on the LGBTQ+ population,” according to the official communication from the city.

“I am the Mayor of New York City, but I have a message for Florida’s LGBTQ+ community — come to a city where you can say and be whoever you want,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is the latest shameful, extremist culture war targeting the LGBTQ+ community. Today, we say to the families living in fear of this state-sponsored discrimination that you will always have a home in New York City.”

Kilmeade clash

In recent days, two Jacksonville City Council members have responded to Fox personality Brian Kilmeade, who said the city is a “mess” and needs a “rebuild.”

Does Brian Kilmeade have a problem with #JAX? Image via Fox News Channel.

On Tuesday, at-large Republican Matt Carlucci sent Kilmeade, a Fox and Friends co-host, a letter on the topic.

“I guess it doesn’t take much courage to sit behind a desk and heap criticism in front of a camera and to an audience that has little opportunity to respond. Maybe that’s why I don’t watch Fox & Friends,” Carlucci said.

The long-form letter extolled the city’s good points, including a downtown that’s “progressing steadily.”

“In addition to investing hundreds of millions of dollars in older, more vulnerable neighborhoods, we are investing in infrastructure at a rate faster than most cities our size and remain one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. People are not moving here because of thoughtless criticism, like yours, even if it is broadcast nationally on Fox & Friends. People from around the nation and the world are moving here for quality of life and the many incredible amenities found here in Jacksonville,” Carlucci blasted.

Carlucci’s take diverges from another Republican on the City Council, LeAnna Cumber.

Cumber conceded part of Kilmeade’s point.

“We are a decade behind where we should be. As your next Mayor, I will right the course, make smart investments, and ensure gas tax dollars aren’t raised to fund boondoggles. Jax can be the best city in the South!”

Meanwhile, Jacksonville’s current Mayor wants someone from Fox News to come to the city to see it for themselves — he is “bullish and excited about how far we’ve come and about where we’ll end up in the years ahead.”

“I’d invite them to come see our projects that are billion-plus dollar projects that are under review,” Curry told Action News Jax. “I’d love to show somebody around, whether it be one of the hosts, a producer, or someone who is a part of any one of the shows. I think it’d be great. I think they would be impressed.”

Moving day?

Something’s happening here regarding Jacksonville’s most prominent Confederate monument, said City Council member Aaron Bowman on Monday. But what it is, he’s not exactly saying.

Confederate monuments are on the agenda — again. Image via Jacksonville Today.

Bowman made the comments toward the end of the Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee, which he chairs.

Bowman said the Council may soon be able to “start looking at what does that path forward look like” regarding monuments to the Confederacy.

“I don’t want to jump ahead of anything right now, but just to my colleagues, that has not been forgotten and it is something that is very important to me, that as a community we decide what we’re going to do,” Bowman said. “More to follow on that one and throwing a teaser out to you on that.”

We reached out to Bowman for more context on the “path forward.”

“That was part of our strategic plan to facilitate a community conversation. I have been waiting to get Redistricting behind us, so now it is appropriate to address that part of the plan,” Bowman said. “This is not something that the Council will run.”

Bowman’s comments came after his committee’s second reading of a bill that would allocate money from the city’s general fund to move the “Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy” from that park in the heart of Duval County. Matt Carlucci proposed a $500,000 allocation for that.

Late last year, the Council rejected a move with a $1.3 million price tag.

Silence is golden

Could public comment in Jacksonville’s City Council soon have a few more overt restrictions?

That’s the hope of Council President Sam Newby, who is pushing legislation that would put parameters on what the public could do when offering their takes on pending legislation and other matters of import.

The legislation itemizes potential types of disruption, banning “electioneering,” along with “shouting, yelling, whistling, chanting, singing, dancing, clapping, foot-stomping, cheering, jeering,” and waving signs.

Can Sam Newby clean up the public comments segment of Council meetings?

“Consumption of alcohol or controlled substances” is also banned, as is the practice of making “vulgar or offensive remarks or gestures, or using threatening language or gestures, including but not limited to pantomiming, discharging a firearm, choking, or throat-cutting.”

According to a representative from the Office of General Counsel, the idea is to tighten up currently “vague” language in the ordinance.

The Rules Committee deferred the legislation Tuesday, with Chair Brenda Priestly Jackson raising concerns about previous litigation involving a former Council President that the Office of General Counsel said may or may not be resolved. But the bill will be back in two weeks.

Health plan

James Croft, who was key to the city’s messaging efforts during both the Alvin Brown and Lenny Curry administrations, recently had a back and forth with mayoral candidate Donna Deegan about her health plan. Croft made the point that much of what Deegan suggested duplicated what was already in place on Twitter, and in a long-form essay, he offered his own takes on what a mayor actually can and should do regarding health.

Former staffer turns pundit. Image via James Croft.

Croft reserved personal comments while employed by the city, but as he moves into the private sector, it’s interesting to hear his takes on what did and didn’t work and what he would do differently.

“If you want to tell what the priorities of a city or administration are, look at the budget. Actions speak louder than words. And what a city chooses to fund speaks volumes about what is most important to its leadership,” Croft said. “And there lies the issue: you can say that community health is a priority all you want, but unless you fund it properly those words do not mean much.”

“If an administration truly wishes to improve community health, they need to properly fund healthy infrastructure, incentivize businesses to provide healthier options in food deserts, invest in robust and comprehensive public education campaigns, maintain and enhance neighborhood parks, and more,” Croft added.

Paying for those priorities is another matter, of course, and the reality is messaging only does so much. Consider how Croft summed up the “Journey to One” campaign, a public health initiative launched early in the first Curry term.

“It was a well-intentioned initiative; however, it suffered from a lack of serious investment, which hindered its impact.”

Read the entire essay here.

Portly

Long-term investments by the city, the state, and the federal government continue to pay off at JAXPORT, with national coverage routinely lauding the port’s progress.

The latest spotlight was in trade publication The Maritime Executive, which looked at the port’s role in the first barge-to-ship cool-down in the U.S.

The Clean Canaveral makes port. Image via Offshore Energy.

“Last week, the LNG was loaded onto the Clean Canaveral at the Jacksonville dock of JAX LNG. The Clean Canaveral then transferred approximately 600 metric tons of LNG to cool down and bunker the tanker Eagle Brasilia,” reports TME.

One long-term goal of JAXPORT is to become a bunkering hub, supplying LNG to ships from around the region. The Clean Canaveral will be key to that effort, and it performed “very well” in the March run.

Don’t fence me in

Nassau County School District Superintendent Kathy Burns recently told a developer that they need to lay off and slow down, but the developer said to her that everyone wants to come to Nassau, so houses are going up. With those houses come families and children that need schools. Schools need land, and we’re back where we started, with property deals.

The School Board agreed last week to continue pursuing 10 acres adjacent to Yulee Elementary School, to help with expansion and traffic management. Some people raised questions about the propriety of the deal, but that opinion wasn’t shared by most of the Board. At one point, the Board attorney said unequivocally that the Board had followed the proper procedures so far.

Growth needs land; developers are happy to oblige. Image via Nassau County School District.

The Board’s also looking into purchasing a couple of acres next to a 12-plus acre property that is expected to be the site of a new Nassauville school. The School District came into possession of the acreage in a property swap with the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners, which needed 8 acres by Yulee High School for a roadway.

“Essentially, what I found was we have several problems we have to address,” said Brett Steger, attorney for the district, at its latest meeting. “We’ve got an influx of people, obviously, to the county, but specifically coming into the Yulee area. It’s noted in the report that I believe it’s about 2,200 students that are expected to be generated by the growth of the new developments that are coming in.”

The new Nassauville school would be filled from day one, Burns noted.

All-American

The Friends of A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway celebrated the designation of the A1A All-American Road last week with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine.

The A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway was named an “All-American Road” by the Federal Highway Administration in 2021. It’s a special designation for roads with archaeological, cultural, historical, natural, recreational, or scenic significance.

The A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway is one of 57 All-American Roads in the U.S. Image provided.

“Florida’s A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway is truly one of this country’s greatest roadways, and it’s an honor to be here to celebrate its designation as an All-American Road,” Mark Falzone of Scenic America said at the dedication ceremony.

“The road itself represents so many outstanding qualities, and the community behind it gives us a great example of how to showcase those qualities to maximize its impact.”

Also attending the dedication ceremony was state Rep. Tom Leek, Flagler County Commissioner Greg Hansen, St. Johns County Commissioner Henry Dean, National Scenic Byway Foundation President Christopher Sieverdes, and Ernie Audino, the district director to U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz.

The event coincided with the Building Better Byways Conference, hosted by Friends of A1A, including the Florida Department of Transportation’s Florida Scenic Highways Program Annual Meeting and the National Scenic Byway Foundation’s Byway Leadership Training.

“We were so excited to have scenic highway and byway friends join us for this historic moment,” said Friends of A1A Byway Program Administrator Danielle Anderson.

“Not only did our colleagues have the opportunity to experience a world-class dedication ceremony showcasing our byway community partners, but hosting the Building Better Byways Conference here in St. Augustine offered a chance to strengthen the resolve of scenic highway and byway professionals and volunteers as we move forward with projects to enhance our local communities across America.”

Baller Shrimp 

Baseball is back, and thank God for that.

Some days you need to say goodbye to work and spend the next few hours with your best friends, hot dogs and beer. The show on the field isn’t bad, either. Despite the continual foundering of the Miami Marlins franchise, something in the organization is running correctly because the guys in the minors are competitive.

You get to see that talent for the first time this week, as the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp opened their 2022 season at home Tuesday night with the Worcester Red Sox.

Marlins players win when they’re not called Marlins. Image by Wes Wolfe.

The story this year for the Shrimp appears to be pitching.

“While that depth presents itself in a quality big league rotation, it also manifests in the Triple-A rotation,” Sam Hemenway wrote for Fish on the Farm. “Four of the six pitchers listed below have experience at the Major League level already. To have that many pitchers ready to step in, who have already received a cup of coffee in the Majors, should provide a competitive advantage for the Marlins when pitcher injuries inevitably occur to the guys currently expected to be in the MLB rotation.

“Moreover, this projected roster does not even include Edward Cabrera, who could potentially start the year at AAA if he does not earn a spot in the big-league rotation.”

Meanwhile, the usual Minor League high jinks are on tap in the stands.

A few weeks ago, the Shrimp announced their theme nights, including the World’s Largest Ball Pit on Sunday, “featuring hundreds of beach balls being dumped into the seating bowl from the Haskell Suite Level.”

However, Florida politicos may find Cathartic Scream Night on June 24 as most beneficial, when “the entire ballpark will let out one giant cathartic scream to let out whatever frustrations may have bubbled up inside over the past several years.”

Staff Reports



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