Jacksonville Bold for 4.27.22: Musk moment

A Bunch of Twitter Logos. Copy Space Banner Background 3D Rendering
Is Jacksonville ready for a Twitter move? Definite maybe.

Musk moment

Twitter to Jacksonville?

Mayor Lenny Curry made the pitch Wednesday, as exuberance reigned among Republicans after the Elon Musk acquisition.

And Curry was right in his observation. The local tech sector is booming. There are many reasons why Twitter would be a good fit here. And a few reasons why it wouldn’t.

There is this assumption, and I’m not sure where it comes from, that Musk is some Cracker Barrel-style conservative who bought Twitter so that right-wing voices could have a leg up. If Musk gave Curry a relocation pitch meeting, it’s hard to imagine Jacksonville being a real target in its current state.

For one, this city spends hours, weeks, and decades resolving social issues that are slam dunks in so-called peer cities, but in Jacksonville, they languish.

One such issue: It’s 2022, and we’re still debating confederate monument removal. Every two weeks marks for the Confederacy trudge up to the Council and make their case: you’ll know them by their red shirts and advanced age. And they have effectively cowed this Council into getting a referendum on monuments ready for a vote because it’s easier than going on the record themselves.

Curry pointed out this cowardice Tuesday night.

“The people that elected you,” Curry said, “deserve to know where you stand.”

The referendum bill is in the City Council committees next week.

Curry did everything he could in 2015 to consolidate Republican support behind him, but when it has come to these issues that whip up the base, he has managed to avoid giving them the red meat they want.

Curry is the rare conservative in favor of monument removal, and he also found a way in 2016 to get protections for LGBTQ people into law.

That bought him a 2019 challenge from the right in the mayoral race, which he won outright anyway against two Republicans and a third candidate with no party affiliation. But he got the necessary progress through, one thing necessary to reassure multinational companies that rely on a diverse workforce that Jacksonville isn’t a time machine to the 20th century.

Until Jacksonville leaders find a way to actually lead the city on these issues, demonstrating necessary follow-through, a company like Twitter won’t look twice at relocation here. Curry knows that. Republicans on the Council, however, still pretend that isn’t the case and that we can take a Mayberry mentality onto the global stage and win.

Electric Youth

The Florida Young Democrats will convene in Jacksonville this weekend, and so far, two Democratic candidates for Governor are confirmed as speakers.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and state Sen. Annette Taddeo are among the speakers, including Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz and Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney.

Nikki Fried and Annette Taddeo travel to Jacksonville to check out the youth vote.

Gaffney is a current candidate for state Senate, and he seeks to replace term-limited Audrey Gibson in a Democratic-dominated Duval County district.

Notable absences from the speaking itinerary, at least at this writing, include Senate candidate Val Demings, a Congresswoman from Orlando who grew up in Jacksonville. Also unconfirmed as a speaker at this writing: Rep. Charlie Crist, the front-runner (by most metrics) in the Democratic race for Governor.

Though Demings and Crist are yet unconfirmed to speak, other notable Democrats will hold forth.

Rebekah Jones, a “candidate for the FL-01 Congressional District and COVID Dashboard Whistleblower, takes a deep dive into the intersection of science and politics.”

“She’ll discuss how science in policymaking goes beyond just macro issues like climate change and, in fact, affects nearly every political decision at the local, state, and federal level,” the Florida Young Democrats assert.

Baristas organizing workplace protections will also be featured.

Jacksonville’s chapter of Starbucks Workers United will participate “in a lecture-based Q&A on union organization as we discuss the growing labor movement, break down the struggles of young organizers across the country, and highlight our national achievements.”

The Democrats will hold their event at a Jacksonville location that sees the lion’s share of political gatherings in the city: the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront Hotel.

Kingmaker Curry?

Curry ruled out a run for the new Congressional District 4 seat encompassing Nassau, Clay, and much of western and northern Duval counties. Instead, he seems more interested in offering commentary with a recent warning about “ladder climbers” the latest example.

Lenny Curry expects a brutal CD 4 primary, and he’s throwing punches even while not running. Image via Lenny Curry.

“Crowded R primaries can serve a higher purpose. Losing will end the political careers of some of the ladder climbers. The ones with little to no conviction saying whatever is expedient in the moment. I’m hoping some get in this new Congressional race for that reason,” Curry tweeted Sunday night, in his latest commentary on a race he decided not to run, but not before a lot of the narrative was churned up about how he could win the race.

The Mayor functioned more like an oracle than a politician, warning of a “brutal” primary and giving little indication of who he backs in this field. However, he did seem to offer an anti-endorsement of politicians with longevity.

“This primary will be brutal. Well, it should be. My default is always to stand against a lifetime in elected office,” Curry said last week, a seeming rebuff of Sen. Aaron Bean, who looks likely to run and has been in elected office for over a quarter-century.

Trash talk

You can call this the ultimate oppo dump.

Rep. Tracie Davis was in Tallahassee for a Special Session last week when she was alerted to someone seemingly stealing her garbage.

Garbage collection gets personal.

Davis, the incumbent in House District 13, is running for Senate this year, and last week she was alerted to her trash being taken from in front of her homestead.

“My neighbor watched a man in a black SUV stop and place my garbage can in his truck,” Davis recounted on Facebook. “I have some thoughts … but I will let you decide” regarding who the culprit might be.

Jacksonville Bold caught up with Davis this week, and she doesn’t know yet who might have stolen the cans, but she says she has her “suspicions.”

Davis is running against Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney in the Democratic Primary to replace term-limited Sen. Audrey Gibson in the state Senate.

Beach bumps

Jacksonville Beach City Councilman Chet Stokes, within a week of launching his campaign for the Republican nomination in the new House District 16, buttressed his effort by earning support from Jacksonville Beach Mayor Chris Hoffman, along with fellow Council members Dan Janson, Fernando Meza and Cory Nichols.

Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown also offered her support, as did Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond.

Looking for votes. Image via Chet Stokes.

“Chet Stokes is the leader our region needs in Tallahassee,” Diamond said. “An authentic conservative, Chet will fight for our way of life and defend our constitutional freedoms. I am proud to lend him my support and endorsement.”

Meanwhile, a fourth candidate joined the race Tuesday. Former state Rep. Lake Ray is in. Ray represented HD 12 from 2008 to 2016. Redistricting erased that district and forced Ray to redesignate into a new district that included some of the Arlington area he represented and new terrain at the Beaches.

Board boost

Gov. Ron DeSantis championed Parental Rights in Education law will be a subject of debate on May 3 among the Duval County School Board.

Member Charlotte Joyce introduced a resolution this week supporting the law critics call “Don’t Say Gay,” as was first reported in the Florida Times-Union.

“Be it Resolved that the Duval County School Board … unequivocally supports the Parental Rights in Education bill,” the resolution said. Emily Bloch notes it gives thanks to the Governor and the Legislature for “their leadership in defending parents’ rights to exercise authority over their children and to teach their children their values, morals, and beliefs.”

Charlotte Joyce is all-in on the parental rights bill, otherwise known as ‘Don’t Say Gay.’

Joyce represents the Westside of Jacksonville. During this election cycle, Bloch reports that she has gotten campaign donations from Floridians for Conservative Values, a political committee associated with state Rep. Clay Yarborough. She is running unopposed for a second term.

Duval GOP Chair Dean Black hailed the move.

“We applaud School Board Member Charlotte Joyce on her introduction of this Resolution supporting Gov. DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education law. Parents have the right to know what is going on in our schools, and we stand with them to protect young children from radical gender and sex theories!”

Smart parking

Those looking for parking spaces in Downtown Jacksonville soon will experience their own “Back to the Future” moment, as the city has contracted with a vendor for mobile payment solutions,

The ParkMobile service will allow users of Jacksonville’s 1,420 parking meters to monitor their parking spots and make payments on the go if necessary. Time was when coins were needed for the local meters, but now a cash-free (or change-free alternative) will be available throughout Jacksonville’s city center.

“As we continue to see unprecedented growth and development in downtown Jacksonville, there is a notable need for convenient parking,” Curry said. “We are excited about our partnership with ParkMobile as it will make it easier for residents and visitors to frequent this portion of our city.”

iPhone and Android apps are available, as is a traditional web interface.

“Not only is the timing of this partnership nearly perfect, the fact that a national leader in smart parking, with nearly 35 million users, is expanding their services into downtown Jacksonville is a testament to our growth and development,” said Lori Boyer, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority. “ParkMobile will help to ease the stress of parking in downtown and allow citizens to focus on what our amazing downtown has to offer.”

Tweet, tweet:

Toyota traffic

JAXPORT and the world’s largest independent distributor of Toyotas got together again to sign off on a long-term deal involving a $210 million investment, including a $33 million Blount Island improvement project meant to facilitate the effort.

“This is an exciting day for Southeast Toyota,” Southeast Toyota Distributors Vice President Casey Gunnell said at the lease signing Monday morning at JAXPORT Headquarters.

“Fifty-four years ago, our distributorship started here in Jacksonville, and not too far after that, we occupied the Talleyrand facility here, so we’ve been at Talleyrand for 50 years. As (JAXPORT CEO) Eric (Green) mentioned, we have 800 associates here in Jacksonville. It’s exciting for us to be able to provide a new facility for them in an environment where we can have additional efficiencies, and from a technical standpoint, be able to process vehicles well into the future.”

Toyotas in, Toyotas out. Image via JAXPORT.

Blount Island offers the Toyota distributor a significant amount of additional room than its current environs, 50 acres at the Talleyrand Marine Terminal, and a nearby 23-acre private facility.

The Blount Island site has 15 more acres in one location instead of two. Improvements to the site will include “two state-of-the-art processing buildings” and work areas covering more than 250,000 square feet, along with new rail connections and truck loading areas. The new rail connections seek to ease truck traffic coming off the island.

Case dismissed

A fight between Omni Amelia Island and property owners in Amelia Island Plantation — the Amelia Island Plantation Community Association — ended on one front Monday when U.S. District Judge Howard E. Schlesinger ruled Omni didn’t go through proper procedures in its effort to defend and consolidate its power over the extensive south Amelia Island development.

“The statute requires a written pre-suit mediation demand ‘in substantial conformity’ with the statute’s suggested form,” according to the order.

“The form is several paragraphs and must contain, inter alia, a notice of cost-sharing, certain deadlines, and a list of suggested mediators. The bottom of the form requires the signature of the responding party, and the statute lists mailing requirements. Omni’s letter does not contain any of these elements. Amelia Island’s motion is due to be granted.”

Lovely views, tough litigating. Image via Amelia Island Plantation Community Association.

Omni took over the development when it purchased the Amelia Island Company’s assets in a bankruptcy auction for $67.1 million 12 years ago. In its complaint against the AIPCA, Omni claimed the association was making moves to change the power dynamic between Omni and the property owners to remove Omni’s right of first refusal on property sales within the development.

Property owners argued they should have the power among themselves to manage the development, not Omni.

Save the date

This week, the Flagler Tiger Bay Club announced that it lined up former FSU President John Thrasher as the keynote speaker for its May luncheon.

Last year, Thrasher retired as FSU president, ending a tenure that saw the university rocket up in academic rankings and secure more than $1 billion through fundraising campaigns. The 2017 Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame inductee had a long career in public service before he became FSU President.

He served eight years in the state House and was House Speaker for the 1998-2000 term. In 2009, he was elected to the state Senate, where he remained until he was selected to lead his alma mater in 2014.

John Thrasher jumps into the Tiger’s den. Image via FSU.

After his retirement, Thrasher accepted a position at The Southern Group, the top state-level lobbying firm measured by revenues. It was something of a homecoming for Thrasher, who helped launch The Southern Group alongside firm chair Paul Bradshaw in the early 2000s.

Thrasher will deliver the keynote on May 18 at 11:30 a.m., in a speech titled “Florida’s Competitive Advantage in Higher Education.” Members of The Flagler Tiger Bay Club can get tickets for $35. Guest tickets are $40. More information is available on the club’s website.

Monkey business

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is looking to hire back-of-the-house staff during a two-day job fair.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the zoo will be interviewing applicants for various kitchen positions. The fair runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily on the zoo property, 370 Zoo Pkwy in Jacksonville.

The nonprofit said it has immediate openings for part-time and full-time food associates, cooks and lead line cooks. Skill sets sought include prep, line cooking, fine dining, quick service, receiving and stewarding. Detailed job descriptions are available on the zoo’s website.

Applicants should show up with their current resumes and a government-issued ID and be prepared to interview with the culinary team. Job offers will be made on the spot, and employment is contingent upon completing drug screenings and background checks.

Help wanted: This could be your office.

Those who land a job will snag a cushy benefits package, including medical, dental and vision coverage, 75% paid college tuition, a culinary stipend program, zoo membership, conservation fieldwork, discounts at Skechers and more.

There’s also a consolation prize for applicants who complete an on-site interview, whether they get hired or not: two tickets to the zoo and a chance to win a behind-the-scenes tour for six.

Cardiac Shrimp

Walk-offs happen, and the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp made sure to be on the right side of those in two out of three over the past week while keeping up an incredible pace of nine wins in 10 games.

“Jacksonville (10-8) had the first two men sent down on strikes to start the ninth with the score knotted at four, but RJ Alaniz (L, 0-1) proceeded to walk Brian Miller, Peyton Burdick, and Lewin Díaz to load the bases,” according to the MiLB.com game recap on Sunday’s contest. “On the first pitch, (Lorenzo) Quintana smacked a fly ball to the right-field warning track, just out of the reach of Gwinnett right fielder Justin Dean, to score Miller from third and give the Jumbo Shrimp the 5-4 win.”

Shrimp baseball — it’s exciting. Image via Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

The Gwinnett Stripers carried a couple of names you may recognize — Ronald Acuña Jr. and Delino DeShields Jr. — who weren’t enough on their own to counter the Shrimp offense, which averaged nearly six runs a game over the six games with Gwinnett. Jacksonville’s also scored 33 more runs than it’s allowed this season, which is the best mark in the Division.

The Shrimp are at 11-8 and half a game back from first place in the International League East Division and are out on a 12-game road trip. They’ll return to Jacksonville on May 10.

Staff Reports



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