Jacksonville Bold for 5.18.22: I’m on a Boat

floatilla
In Duval, they’re voting with boat flags.

Years back, flotillas honoring then-President Donald Trump were all the rage — at least among the aquatic elements of the right-wing.

Now?

The boaters may be redirecting their backing — if an open call for watercraft from the Republican Party of Duval County and the Republican Party of Florida is any sign.

“Calling ALL Captains — Join us Saturday, June 11, 2022, for the World’s First DeSantis Flotilla! Let’s show Gov. Ron DeSantis how much we appreciate him here in Northeast Florida. Order your DeSantis flags NOW. All proceeds will go to help the Governor in his re-election efforts,” the invite exhorts.

And just in case the mailing list was worried, DeSantis has a bead on this event and is looking for updates on participation: “Sign up today to secure your spot on the river or register as a spectator so we can tell the Governor how many supporters participated!”

Won’t ya let me take you on a sea cruise?

The summer promises more DeSantis Flotillas. The state has 67 county GOPs and, therefore, 67 opportunities to reprise this gimmick, though one suspects they won’t max out in the end.

This is great for a Governor running for re-election.

For whom is it not great? What about the last guy feted in these flotillas, the 45th President of the United States?

Sure, Trump isn’t on the 2022 ballot, and were we dealing with any other politician save the one whose current identity is yoked to a claim the 2020 election was illegitimate; flag-switching for right-wing boaters wouldn’t be a big deal.

But Florida Politics keeps reporting on polls throughout the country suggesting that Republicans are ready to jump off the Trump train for America’s Governor.

Republicans typically don’t go backward. How many Romney/Ryan flags or signs do you see these days? McCain/Palin? And the only Bush/Cheney nostalgists are on MSNBC these days. Trump and his 2020 fever pitch has been posited as the exception, with every indication suggesting he waltzes to the nomination in 2024.

Every signal, that is, except the DeSantis groundswell that will reflect in the choppy current of the St. Johns River next month.

Trump or DeSantis? Republicans will have to choose. And in Duval, they’re voting with their flags.

Susie Wiles, call your office.

Tweet, tweet:

Renner rave

Amid a flurry of similar announcements, DeSantis formalized an expected endorsement Monday of the Republican Speaker-Designate.

On Twitter, the first-term Governor (and candidate for re-election) hailed Rep. Paul Renner, formerly of Jacksonville and now of Palm Coast, as a “strong supporter of our agenda in the House.”

“I’m pleased to endorse his re-election, and I look forward to working with Paul during his term as Speaker of the House,” DeSantis contended.

Paul Renner gets support from the big guys.

Renner is on pace to be Speaker in the 2023 Legislative Session, assuming Republicans hold the majority in the House, which is almost inevitable. He was a useful ally for the Governor in his role as Speaker-designate and appeared poised to be pivotal to a second-term agenda, should DeSantis be re-elected.

Renner is running in the new House District 19, a likely Republican-performing district that voted for Trump and DeSantis with over 55% of the vote in recent elections.

Facing nominal opposition, he has raised more than $2.1 million for that effort between his campaign account and those of his two political committees, Conservatives for Principled Leadership and Florida Foundation for Liberty.

Veteran presence

Former state Rep. Lake Ray announced an endorsement Tuesday from a “legendary Florida public servant” as he runs to serve new voters.

John Thrasher, a former president of Florida State University who served as chair of the Republican Party of Florida, a state Senator, and Florida House Speaker, said Ray’s experience made him the best bet in what is currently a four-candidate race.

“Tallahassee is no place for on-the-job training. We need experienced conservative leaders like Lake Ray to make sure that District 16 has a seat at the table when decisions are being made. Jean and I have known Lake for many years, we know his abilities and his character, and we are 100% behind him,” said Thrasher.

John Thrasher gives Lake Ray a big thumbs-up. Image via Colin Hackley.

Thrasher was one of a group of recent endorsements for Ray, who designated his campaign to HD 16 after legislative redistricting earlier this year. State Rep. Scott Plakon also is on board, as are former Atlantic Beach Mayors Mitch Reeves and Mike Borno, and Neptune Beach City Council member Scott Wiley. Ray has stacked endorsements since launching his campaign last year in the former HD 12.

Ray is the second leading fundraiser in the field, with roughly $145,000 on hand between his campaign account and his political committee, A Stronger Florida for Us. Jacksonville Beach City Council member Chet Stokes reported nearly $260,000 in his first month as a candidate, a sum boosted by $150,000 in personal funds.

Stoked

Speaking of Stokes, the Jacksonville Beach City Council member cast his line and hooked another significant endorsement for his House District 16 race, pulling in Ander Crenshaw — the former Congressman, Senate President and state Representative.

“The time has come for a new generation of conservative leadership in Tallahassee,” Crenshaw said. “Chet Stokes is the clear choice for House District 16.”

Chet Stokes cast his line and snagged a significant endorsement.

Crenshaw joins Jacksonville City Council member Rory Diamond, Jacksonville Beach Mayor Chris Hoffman, Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown, and Jacksonville Beach Council members Cory Nichols and Fernando Meza in supporting Stokes for the Republican nomination.

Endorsements are flowing in the Primary race, as fellow candidate Ray snagged the support of Thrasher, the former President of Florida State University, Speaker of the Florida House, state Senator and chair of the Republican Party of Florida.

Liquor is quicker

Among a batch of eight bills signed Monday by DeSantis was a measure allowing smaller restaurants in yet another Jacksonville neighborhood to have liquor service if they are actual restaurants and not bars.

HB 1497, introduced by Reps. Wyman Duggan and Angie Nixon, “creates and adds the Kings Avenue Commercial Corridor into the special zones created by special laws located in downtown Jacksonville.”

A new place to bend the elbow in Jacksonville.

“The bill creates an exception to the quota limitation and authorizes DBPR to issue a special food service license to a bona fide restaurant within Northside West, Northside East, and Kings Avenue Commercial Corridor in Jacksonville that meets the following requirements: occupies at least 1,000 square feet of contiguous space, is equipped to serve meals to at least 50 persons at one time, and derives at least 51% of its gross food and beverage revenue from the sale of food and nonalcoholic beverages. Such licenses are subject to local zoning requirements and to any provision of the alcoholic beverage laws of the state and rules of the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco not inconsistent within the bill,” the bill analysis asserts.

Pushes to expand this practice have happened in recent years in Jacksonville, and while there was a time when it seemed controversial to expand alcohol service at smaller bistros, those days appear to have passed.

Murray Hill, Springfield, San Marco, Riverside and Avondale have all received such dispensations.

Statuesque

Yet another Jacksonville City Council committee opted for silence when asked to let the people speak about historical monuments.

A referendum measure (2022-265) sponsored by second-term Republican Al Ferraro, a current mayoral candidate, failed by the Rules Committee’s 1-5 vote.

It was the second committee in two days to reject the proposal for a referendum, a seeming bad sign ahead of a full City Council vote slated for Tuesday despite two negative committee references.

Al Ferraro wants a monument referendum. It didn’t pass muster.

“This was not an interest in the community,” Ferraro, who supports keeping Confederate monuments in place, said about monument removal.

Ferraro said the bill intends to “allow the voters to talk,” but “it’s been chopped up to be racially motivated, and that’s not what it was.”

The central sticking point is just one statue: The Women of the Southland in Springfield Park.

Legislation filed last year to remove the structure failed. Mayor Lenny Curry sought $1.3 million to move the Tribute to the Women of the Confederacy from Springfield Park, but all three Council committees of reference rejected that appropriation, and the bill was withdrawn.

A sticking point was the price tag itself: the $1.3 million needed for a careful move, hoping to preserve the piece’s artistic value.

Osprey lands

The University of North Florida (UNF) Board of Trustees looked to Tampa for UNF’s next University president, voting unanimously to select Moez Limayem, the Lynn Pippenger Dean in the Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida (USF).

Limayem’s professional accomplishments are extensive, as expected from a university president candidate. In the past 10 years as Dean, Limayem was responsible for raising more than $126 million for USF, including several multimillion-dollar gifts, helping raise the freshman retention rate to 95% and leading USF’s efforts in career preparation, internships, and talent development.

Moez Limayem stood out among the finalists. Image via the University of North Florida.

Limayem became a person of influence during his time in Tampa, arriving from the University of Arkansas, where he was the assistant dean of the University’s business school. In 2022, he was named to the Tampa Business Journal Power 100 list of the city’s most influential business leaders; he also serves on the Greater Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

“Because of his involvement with a State University System member, especially a preeminent institution, many of the members of the (State University System Board of Governors), our Chancellor, many of my law partners in Tampa who interact with him in the business community, are very excited about him,” Board Chair Kevin Hyde said.

Mental health

Thursday will see the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission host and facilitate a daylong symposium probing the effects of the pandemic on mental health.

The event begins at 9 a.m. and runs all day. It will be in the conference room of the main library, and snacks and beverages will be available.

COVID-19 put mental health front and center.

“Mental health is just as important as physical well-being. The program will discuss signs of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents, how trauma affects children and families, preventing suicide among veterans and first responders, and mental health and substance abuse disorders,” the news release asserts.

“The event will also share available community resources that will help people prioritize their emotional and mental health. Experts will be on hand to speak with community members about local services and support.”

Registration is still open for tomorrow’s event.

Breezy

Breeze Airways’ first flight out of Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) is set and ready to go, taking off at 2:50 p.m. Thursday for Richmond, Virginia. Officials with the Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) and Breeze are hosting a celebration of the event at the airport before departure at 1:30 p.m.

The airline, JAX and minor league baseball’s Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp will also announce a new agreement at the event, “celebrating the single largest new air service announcement in the airport’s history and its first new signatory airline since JetBlue announced it would begin service to JAX more than a decade ago,” the JAA said in a statement.

Fly me to the moon — or at least Jacksonville. Image via The Associated Press.

Breeze has nonstop service to Richmond; Columbus, Ohio; Hartford, Connecticut; Las Vegas, Nevada; New Orleans, Louisiana; Providence, Rhode Island; Norfolk, Virginia. And, starting June 30, Westchester, New York.

Tower trouble

A proposed settlement between Riverstone Properties and Nassau County would allow previously banned tower heights — up to 85 feet — for the south end of Amelia Island. In return, the county would receive a beach access point, albeit one that doesn’t open any new beach to the public and is a few hundred yards away from another beach access to the north and Amelia Island State Park to the south.

Riverstone owns around 50 acres of land on the east side of the First Coast Highway in the unincorporated part of the island. It sued under the Bert Harris Act.

“Because Riverstone is located in the RG-2 zoning district and because ninety (90) percent of Riverstone’s Property falls within 1,000 feet of the (Coastal Construction Control Line), the maximum permitted height for the majority of Riverstone’s Property under the proposed Ordinance was 35 feet,” according to Riverstone’s complaint.

“As a result, the proposed Ordinance severely limited the number of oceanfront residential units that Riverstone would be able to develop on the Property.”

Current, smaller south-end Amelia Island towers sit next to key nesting habitats for imperiled shorebirds. Image via Wes Wolfe.

Amelia Island residents’ groups took to social media, with one person calling it a win/win. But an administrator of Conserve Amelia Now! said it was a raw deal for everyone but the developers.

“How does a 200-foot track of land (accompanied by an $11 million tax break!) benefit local members of our community?” Perry Rae wrote in an email to County Commissioners and posted it on Facebook.

“This park would sit almost 20 miles from the Wildlight development (a drive of over 30 minutes), obviously farther for residents of Callahan and Hillard. More likely is that this park would appeal mostly to Jacksonville residents, who pay no taxes to the upkeep of our community and won’t have to deal with the obstructed views on a daily basis.”

The matter is expected to come up at the next two County Commission meetings, scheduled for May 18 and 23.

Cost of teaching

The Nassau County School Board is looking at how to keep the teachers they have from leaving amid a teacher shortage crisis, rapid county development and sky-high cost of living.

“I’ll say again, our quality will begin to suffer, not being able to fill positions,” Nassau County School District Superintendent Kathy Burns said at Thursday night’s Board meeting.

Board members are trying to narrow down retention issues that are in their power to address.

Teacher compensation was less of a headache for Nassau officials when Public School No. 1 opened in Fernandina Beach a century ago. Image via Wes Wolfe.

Not every teacher who leaves chooses to fill out the exit survey, but for the ones who did, Burns had a list of their reasons.

“Today I’m not going to call out names (of teachers),” Burns said, “but I’m just going to give you — this is just from today’s agenda: moving, Georgia, working from home, taking a contracted position, Georgia, going to a charter school, Georgia, going to nursing school, going from a (teacher) to a (parent), making more money at Winn-Dixie.”

The teacher who left for the Winn-Dixie job didn’t do it for a corporate gig, Burns explained, but for one in the store.

A workshop on the issue and its relation to this year’s millage discussion is scheduled for May 26 at 4:30 p.m., before the regularly scheduled Board meeting at 6:30 p.m.

DAISY chain

Skyler Hyde, RN, has been honored as a DAISY Award recipient at Flagler Hospital for providing superior, compassionate care to a pair of patients and their families during recent trying times.

The DAISY Award is an international program that rewards and celebrates the extraordinary, compassionate and skillful care nurses give every day and is considered among the highest honors in Nursing.

Hyde, a nurse in Flagler Health+’s Surgical Intensive Care Unit, received two nominations from the families of loved ones who were recently under his care. One nomination was from Sue Stepp, whose loved one was removed from life support. Stepp explained that Hyde provided great comfort as her family member died and she and her other family members were very appreciative of the support Skyler provided in their time of sorrow. “If there is an award of persistence and due diligence, compassion, professionalism, and excellent nursing care in your department, well, I hope he receives it,” she wrote.

Skyler Hyde demonstrates the power of compassion.

Hyde’s second nomination came from the wife of a patient admitted to ICU while visiting St. Augustine. He was able to keep the patient’s wife informed of her husband’s status as she traveled to be with her husband.

“[Skyler] has encouraged my husband during very emotional moments and has never come across as uncaring, even at his busiest. During this challenging and traumatic time, he has been a blessing, a source of comfort, and we will never be able to forget him,” she wrote.

These two nominations were among the 53 sent by patients, families, and Flagler Health+ employees to be reviewed by Flagler Health+’s DAISY Committee, which chose Hyde as the honoree.

“The nurses at Flagler Hospital make a lasting impact on the patients and families that they provide care for on a daily basis,” said Carlton DeVooght, president and CEO of Flagler Health+. “Skyler is a fitting, and well-deserved, recipient of the DAISY Award. His level of care and willingness to exceed expectations has made a tremendous difference in the lives of many and we are sincerely grateful.”

New Shrimp, old Sun

It’s all about the new guy in town for the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, who are in the second part of a 12-game homestand.

You may want to get acquainted with Jerar Encarnacion, an outfield/first base prospect who’s spent the last months as a star of the AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos. This week, he got his call up to the Shrimp, knocking a home run in his second AAA at-bat.

“Don’t swing at a bad ball,” Encarnacion said about his hitting, to MLB.com. “If you’re late in the box, you’re swinging at everything. So, it’s, ‘Stay in the zone. Swing at good pitches.’ If you’re staying here, you’ll never strike out on a bad pitch.”

Jerar Encarnacion, before he got to Jacksonville, looking good. Image via the Clinton LumberKings.

He batted .358 with a .426 on-base percentage with eight home runs, three doubles, and four steals in 31 Blue Wahoo games this season.

In the bullpen, a veteran reliever who spent time as a member of the Jacksonville Suns is back in town with the Shrimp and looking to return to the majors. The Jumbo Shrimp’s Scott Kornberg recently profiled pitcher Grant Dayton for MiLB.com.

Dayton’s coming off a career experience, winning the World Series last season with the Atlanta Braves.

The Shrimp spent the first half of the homestand going head-to-head with Nashville, the best team in the International League so far this season. The Sounds (24-11) took four of six from Jacksonville (20-17), and the home team lost Tuesday again to the Durham Bulls (17-20).

The Shrimp are now four games out of the division lead and third behind the Rochester Red Wings (24-13) and the Buffalo Bisons (21-16). The series with Durham runs through Sunday; then, the squad’s back on the road to Pennsylvania to face the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (13-23).

Staff Reports



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