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Parental Rights = Political Payoff
Tuesday night’s Duval County School Board meeting saw some political winners and others who may not be winning much.
Charlotte Joyce, the Westside conservative who filed a resolution of support for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Parental Rights in Education” bill, felt the love of dozens of speakers who extolled her for attempting to formalize board support for the legislation.
Of course, as Emily Bloch of the Florida Times-Union noted, they tabled the Joyce resolution, with Joyce the only dissenter, so the board missed the opportunity to, as Bloch wrote, “thank Gov. DeSantis” for the legislation.
The culture war was in full swing at the DCPS headquarters, which was something else they could “thank” Gov. DeSantis for if they actually passed the Joyce proposal.
“On one side of the tape aisle, allies wore shirts that said things like ‘PROTECT TRANS YOUTH’ and donned rainbow flags. Across the way, a group held banners and signs that said things like ‘STOP SEXUAL PROPAGANDA AT SCHOOL’ and ‘PROTECT CHILDREN — SUPPORT PARENTS,’” Bloch wrote.
Joyce also wants the school district to change its LGBTQ+ Support Guide and stop letting students use bathrooms that don’t conform to their birth gender.
Politically, the move is significant for Joyce. She’s appearing with Moms for Liberty and speaking to right-of-center groups like the Republican Women’s Club of Duval Federated. The bill being tabled only gives her more talking points, and points to a political future beyond the school board. We’ve already seen Jason Fischer turn school board contrarianism into higher office and a career in politics, and Joyce could follow down that path.
Yet the ultimate winner here is DeSantis.
Recall that in 2018, he lost Duval County to Andrew Gillum, and the local Republican Party chair at the time blamed DeSantis and other Republicans for running sleepy campaigns that didn’t connect to the base.
Say what you want about the DeSantis era, but it’s all about the base. The hat tips toward moderation in 2019 are history now. He has figured out that the trick to turning out the base is to serve up the red meat, and the Parental Rights law and the outsized reaction to it by the board shows the liberal establishment on the defensive.
And these board members? Their political futures are on the line.
On Monday in Jacksonville, Gov. DeSantis visited Jacksonville Zoo’s Manatee Critical Care Center to roll out a promised increase of over $17 million in funding for manatee rehabilitation and habitat restoration in the new budget, focusing specifically on expanding acute care facilities.
“When we sign the budget into law, we will be approving and including more than $30 million to support efforts to protect Florida’s manatees and habitats,” DeSantis said. “This is record funding.”
The location was no accident.
As the Governor said, the Jacksonville location was the first of such facilities for manatees in Northeast Florida; it can “care for five to six manatees at a time” and “provides temporary housing and care until they can be returned to the wild.”
Meanwhile, the private sector will be part of the solution.
The Jacksonville Zoo is launching a capital program to expand its manatee habitat and rehab program and will solicit funds from corporate partners and donors.
Officials from Insurance Service Office joined city officials, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, and leadership to announce that the city has earned the highest ISO rating.
Insurance Services Office (ISO) underwrites fire risk within cities and communities nationwide. The “ISO Public Protection Classification (PPC)” rating calculates insurance premiums for property owners.
A “Class 1 rating” is the highest possible score for any fire department nationwide.
JFRD has maintained this ISO rating — one of the top 1% in the nation — since 2016. This shows how the JFRD effectively responds to incidents — and ultimately saves lives and taxpayers’ money.
“Since taking office, my administration has been committed to public safety and ensuring that our first responders have the tools they need to save lives,” said Curry. “This Class 1 rating and other JFRD improvements saved taxpayers over $100 million in insurance premiums in 2021, alone.”
The list of hosts on a newly announced fundraiser for Dean Black, Duval County Republican Party Chair and candidate for House District 15, includes a veritable who’s who of influential Nassau County electeds.
The host committee includes, from Nassau County, Sheriff Bill Leeper, Clerk of Court John Crawford, Tax Collector John Drew and Property Appraiser Mike Hickox. Hosts from the city of Fernandina Beach include Mayor Mike Lednovich, Vice Mayor Len Kreger, Commissioner Bradley Bean and Commissioner David Sturges.
Joining them are Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Gil Langley and Greg Cook, the General Manager for The Ritz-Carlton.
The event, a Spring Brunch, is set for May 21 at the residence of Buddy and Lorelei Jacobs in Amelia Island Plantation; Brett’s Waterway Cafe provides catering, and music is by John Springer.
A Jacksonville Beach City Council member entered the race in the new House District 16 last month and has already claimed the fundraising lead.
Republican Chet Stokes will report $259,845 between his campaign account and his political committee, Strengthening Florida’s Future. The candidate is betting on himself, with $150,000 of the launch money being self-fund, but it’s clear that a group of reliable stakeholders are betting on him as well.
Jacksonville Beach Mayor Chris Hoffman, Jacksonville Beach City Council members Cory Nichols and Dan Janson, Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond and St. Johns County Commissioner Jeremiah Blocker was among the first round of donors.
Stokes is one of four candidates in the field, albeit the best-funded. A news release from his camp says he has the cash lead over the other three, an assertion that won’t be definitively proven true until all candidates file April fundraising, which isn’t due from Heath Brockwell, Kiyan Michael, and Lake Ray until next Tuesday.
Of those three, Ray, who re-designated his campaign from HD 12 last month, is the only one with real money.
His A Stronger Florida for Us political committee had roughly $65,000 on hand at the end of March. Simultaneously, Ray also had approximately $80,000 in his campaign account.
Democratic state House candidate Mincy Pollock hasn’t solved his residency issue, as state records show he still domiciles outside House District 14. But he continues to fundraise ahead of an August primary showdown against Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis for the seat northwest of the St. Johns River.
Pollock has no political committee, at least of this writing, called Mincy for Florida. His committee, All Things Common, has roughly $10,000 in it through March fundraising; he has a little more than $17,000 in hard money.
Jacksonville City Councilman Dennis is better situated, with roughly $30,000 in his political committee, Forward Progress; at the end of March, he had an additional $20,000 in hard money.
HD 14 opened because incumbent Angie Nixon now lives in HD 13, where incumbent Tracie Davis runs for Senate.
Blue backs Baker
Jessica Baker, an assistant state attorney in the 7th Circuit, continues to roll out endorsements in her campaign for the Republican nomination in Duval County’s new House District 17.
Tuesday saw backing from the principal police union in Jacksonville: The Fraternal Order of Police.
“The Fraternal Order of Police is proud to endorse Jessica Baker for the Florida House,” said Randy Reeves, FOP President Lodge 5-30. “We admire her dedication to the hardworking families and businesses of District 17 and know that she will continue to be a beacon of inspiration for the men and women in law enforcement because Jessica understands that a safe community lends to a prosperous and safe future.”
“Our brave men and women in law enforcement put their lives on the line each and every day to ensure our families and our businesses are safe from those who operate outside the law,” said Baker. “As a prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the challenges our law enforcement officers face when the full force of our judicial system fails to have their backs. I am honored to have the support of the Fraternal Order of Police because, together, I know we can keep Northeast Florida’s families and communities safe.”
Baker enjoys a financial advantage over the two other candidates, with nearly $450,000 cash on hand through March in her campaign account and her political committee, Friends of Jessica Baker.
The other Republican in the race, Jordan Wells, has reported no fundraising through four months as an active candidate. Democrat Michael Anderson opened his campaign account last month, and his first month’s activity will be reported by May 10.
HD 17 is a new Duval County seat, encompassing the University of North Florida and surrounding areas. It is drawn to perform Republican, with Donald Trump and DeSantis carrying these voters in the most recent General Elections.
A protest about the excessive cost of housing ended up derailing Sunday, with city workers compelled to remove so-called props from the Jacksonville City Hall steps.
An affordable housing rally downtown was disrupted earlier today when city workers took props from the rally and threw them away. https://t.co/rsqKtRhsZ9
— News4JAX (@wjxt4) May 1, 2022
Mattresses and furniture were removed, reports News4Jax, because they were blocking ingress and egress into the building. Some observers have questioned whether entrances and exits were blocked, but it ultimately was the call of city officials.
State Rep. Angie Nixon wasn’t happy.
“To call city workers in and pay them over time instead of making sure that our parks are clean, our drainage problems are fixed, and the flooding issues are stopped; they decided to do this because they want to continue attacking our constitutional rights,” Nixon told WJXT.
Among those objecting to the move: the Libertarian Party of Duval County.
“The Libertarian Party of Duval County denounces this action and finds the City of Jacksonville’s response contemptuous — only worthy of a disliked king who rules unjustly,” they said, part of a longer statement.
Jacksonville City Councilman Al Ferraro pushed back against pushy panhandlers Monday, agitating for action on a recurrent “problem throughout the city” he spotlighted recently.
“I’ve had a lot of folks who have come to me concerned about people coming up and pulling on door handles at intersections asking for money,” Ferraro said, noting that children are being enlisted.
“I don’t know if these kids actually belong to the people that they are with,” Ferraro said, citing other concerns, including “visibility.”
Ferraro noted that there are limitations regarding “signage and different things” on state, federal and local roads, adding another challenge for policymakers.
Republican Kevin Carrico also voiced concerns and a willingness to “join the fight” and “protect our citizens while being sensitive to our citizens in greatest need.”
“It’s a citywide issue,” Carrico said, describing it as prevalent on the Southside. “It does impact safety.”
Carrico wondered if one child he saw panhandling was “out there against her will,” echoing Ferraro’s concerns that the minors involved lack legitimate familial relationships with adults panhandling with them.
Republican Michael Boylan was also on hand to offer support, saying he was “anxious” for movement on this issue.
Yet any timeline may be protracted.
A representative from the Office of General Counsel noted that court challenges often targeted panhandling bans and asserted her eagerness to avoid a suit in federal court.
“Just one word in an ordinance can make it possibly unconstitutional,” she said, stressing the challenge of crafting this legislation, which exists now in “rough draft” form.
A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office representative noted the importance of “protecting people’s rights, including those panhandling.”
“We really want to do this right instead of fast … measuring twice and cutting once, so to speak,” he said.
Ferraro returned to panhandling minors, with the JSO representative suggesting there was little that could be done to the parents or adults except for potential “child abuse” or “child endangerment” charges.
“If we see a child out there, we should report it,” Ferraro confirmed.
A much-anticipated legal challenge to the Jacksonville City Council redistricting map has been filed, reports The Tributary.
The map, which maintained the current status quo and created four predominantly Black districts that serve as functional Democratic vote sinks, was passed by an overwhelming majority by the Council, despite protests and promises of a lawsuit.
The NAACP, the Northside Coalition, the ACLU of Florida Northeast Chapter and Florida Rising are all parties to the suit, reports Andrew Pantazi.
City lawyers have said at public meetings that they are confident that the map would survive a challenge. It looks like they will find out.
The Clay County Charter Review Commission is mulling a change to term limits for constitutional officers, but two Republican leaders on the state level rise in opposition.
In a joint statement, Sen. Jennifer Bradley and Rep. Sam Garrison accused the commissioners of considering a change that circumvented the express will of voters, who approved the term limits.
“Four years ago, Clay County voters overwhelmingly approved term limits for all constitutional officers. Now the charter review commission wants to turn back the clock. We strongly urge the CRC to reverse course, support term limits, and honor the will of the people.”
The term limits are already looser than in many jurisdictions: incumbents get to serve three four-year terms consecutively before standing down.
Garrison pushed for school board term limits in the Legislature in the 2022 Session, so this is an issue of concern to him broadly. Now he’s fighting the battle closer to home, as Clay looks to undo limits over 55% of voters wanted.
As JAXPORT sets out on an ambitious Blount Island Marine Terminal project with Southeast Toyota Distributors, the Port Authority is in good financial condition, according to Fitch Ratings. The firm recently awarded JAXPORT another “A” rating for its $44.3 million in outstanding revenue bonds.
“The investments that have been made in our port by our elected officials and private partners position Jacksonville for continued economic growth and supply chain security,” JAXPORT CEO Eric Green said in a statement. “With the harbor deepening project coming online (this) month, along with the public-private partnerships to enhance our terminals and capabilities, we will continue to provide supply chain solutions for our customers and build on our role as Northeast Florida’s economic engine.”
Fitch based the rating on JAXPORT’s diversification in trade lanes and cargo types — “diversification in cargo operations has helped mitigate cargo volatility through the pandemic,” according to Fitch — along with its growing container and automobile businesses.
The Port’s new cargo marketing initiatives and the soon-to-be-completed harbor deepening project are expected to provide “incremental growth in the near-to-medium term.”
St. Johns County continues to be a victim of its own success, at least in terms of its housing market, pricing out longtime residents.
Moneygeek reports that the county is one of 26 counties nationwide where a median family income can’t buy a single-family home.
Collier County was #2 on the list, and Sarasota County was #18, as WJCT notes.
The Jacksonville Daily Record adds that “when the report was researched in fall 2021, St. Johns County’s $392,732 median price for a single-family home was found to be unaffordable to those making the county’s median income of $40,897. It placed St. Johns No. 11 with the county led by Boise City, Idaho, taking the No. 1 spot. At $40,897, a mortgage loan would require 63% of the family’s annual gross income. The ideal target is 25% of gross income.”
It’s not so good for people seeking housing north of Jacksonville either, in Nassau County.
Like everyone else, exorbitant housing costs are hitting Nassau’s public schoolteachers.
Nassau County School Board Vice-Chair Gail Cook said she hoped to work with organizations like the Board of Realtors or the Chamber of Commerce “to see if we could identify some places that would possibly partner with us to be on a list for some of our teachers that, if they go and say, ‘I’m a new employee of Nassau County,’ they’d be willing to do something.”
Young professionals wanting to live in Nassau County without a romantic partner have to be in a high-paying job or get roommates, which Cook said is what her daughter did.
“When my daughter got her first job out of college, the school matched her with a roommate, so that they split the cost,” Cook said. “They were both single, just out of school, and that’s how they were able to afford to live in Boynton Beach, which was expensive back then.”
Along with that, though, current teachers are bailing on a district that’s too expensive in which to live.
“Somebody just told me today, at one particular apartment they had to move because (the rent) went up to over $2,000 (a month),” Superintendent Kathy Burns said.
Cook added she was told a local school lost a teacher similarly.
“The principal said we literally lost a teacher over the rent because it had gone up to the point that it — she just couldn’t afford it,” Cook said.
Good news/bad news for your Jumbo Shrimp — a little more than halfway into a 12-game road trip, they’re doing no worse than when they left home.
Jacksonville (14-11) won its first game Tuesday afternoon 8-6 at the Memphis Redbirds, coming off evenly splitting six games at Charlotte. Run production is still with the club — the Shrimp averaged five runs a game over the series with the Knights.
The possibility of what could be was on full display Saturday, thanks to another stellar pitching performance from hot prospect Max Meyer. He went six and two-thirds innings, allowing six hits and striking out six batters while walking one, giving up one run.
Back at the plate, infielder Charles Leblanc cracked two home runs, including the one that opened up scoring for the game.
“The Jumbo Shrimp loaded the bases with no one out in the third inning thanks to a Joe Dunand walk and singles from Erik González and Peyton Burdick,” according to the MiLB.com recap. “A double-play ground ball plated Dunand to extend the lead to 2-0.
“With the same score in the top of the seventh, Leblanc smashed his second long ball of the game for his second multi-homer game in 10 days.”
The Shrimp will roll through five more games with the Redbirds before a quick turnaround back home in Jacksonville on May 10 against the Nashville Sounds.