Jacksonville Bold for 7.6.22: Business picks up
Cropped shot of letters in a letter box.

Jam-packed with the post. Cropped shot of letters in a letter box.
Time for a wave of candidate flyers — some positive, some negative, all looking for votes.

‘Business is picking up’

Pro wrestling commentator Jim Ross used to say that when talk started to give way to the on-screen action.

The phrase also applies to the Primary season, as it starts to churn.

Television ads? Not many, at least yet. But mailboxes throughout Northeast Florida are crammed with mail pieces: Some positive; some negative; all chasing August voters.

We are gonna need a bigger mailbox.

Below is just a sample — as the faucet begins to open.

And if you see anything interesting in your mailbox, please send an image to [email protected].

The loose (and brave) talk of upstart candidates is starting to quiet down; now, the Primary is in a “resource war,” where fundraising, whether from donors or self-fund, is deployed.

Who’s on TV? Who has endorsements (that matter)? Who is best organized for the campaign trail?

Sure, some candidates might overcome the mechanics — and the realities — of politics. Maybe.

But if it’s anything like earlier cycles, 2022 will have the best-built political machines perform in the home stretch, leaving both also-rans and neophyte candidates in their wake.

Mail call

Republican voters in Jacksonville’s House District 17 — which includes Southside — are getting a heavy dose of prosecutor Jessica Baker, with flyers pressing the Primary case against “liberal” Christina Meredith.

Baker, an assistant state attorney in Florida’s 7th Circuit (south of Duval), adds a positive spin and has more contrast-driven material from political committees.

One mail piece has “prosecutor and trusted conservative” Baker up against “liberal funded California beauty queen” Meredith. Next to Baker is her husband, Tim Baker, a political consultant of note and their children.

California (agenda) dreaming?

“The California agenda is on its way,” declares another, with Meredith in a pink “Malibu Barbie” styled sports car.

“We don’t need her California values,” proclaims yet another. Meredith is shown superimposed over a group of national Democrats.

This is a closed Primary. Democrat Michael Anderson awaits the winner in the General Election.

A sampling of the Baker mail:

Planned push

From the Planned Parenthood PAC, a double-sided flyer targeting Democrats in Riverside and Avondale, urging support for those candidates seeking open state Senate and House seats.

The reproductive rights interest group is backing Rep. Tracie Davis for state Senate, where she hopes to replace term-limited Audrey Gibson. Davis’ Primary opponent, Reggie Gaffney, seems to blunt this endorsement by introducing a (doomed) bill to have the city pay employees to travel to other states for late-term abortions and other reproductive procedures.

But that didn’t stop the mail piece.

Gaffney is already running TV ads, so such endorsements for Davis can help offset the Council member’s resource advantage.

The PAC is backing Rep. Angie Nixon’s run for HD 13 seat. Nixon currently represents HD 14, but redistricting moved her home to the new district. Nixon is facing a Primary challenger; it isn’t as serious as the one faced by Davis in her run for the Senate.

Wyman weighs in

Jacksonville Beach City Council member Chet Stokes scored a key endorsement Tuesday in his bid for the state House.

Stokes, running in the new HD 16 that includes the beaches and eastern portions of Duval County, earned a thumbs-up from Rep. Wyman Duggan. The Westside Republican will be the senior member of the Duval delegation after the 2022 elections.

Wyman Duggan gets stoked for Chet Stokes.

“Chet Stokes is the business leader and genuine conservative we need in Tallahassee. He will use his private sector experience and conservative values to fight for Northeast Florida families. I am proud to endorse him and look forward to serving with him in the Legislature,” Duggan said.

“Wyman Duggan is an excellent Representative for Northeast Florida, and I am humbled by his endorsement. I know that by working together with our great Governor and the Legislature, we can continue to make a real impact for our community,” Stokes said.

Duggan was unopposed in his candidacy for the new HD 12, which spans the St. Johns River in Southern and Western Duval County. His endorsement is the latest example of establishment coalescence behind Stokes.

Stokes had more than $310,000 on hand between his campaign account and his Strengthening Florida’s Future political committee at the end of May. That made a television buy possible, and even after that, he has roughly $270,000 on hand as of June 24.

That puts him well ahead of his nearest competitor, former Rep. Lake Ray.

Ray, a political veteran from the western part of the district, has just over $170,000 on hand as of the most recent numbers between his campaign account and the A Stronger Florida for Us political committee. A third candidate, Kiyan Michael, had nearly $20,000 on hand.

No Democrats are running in this deep red district, but the Primary is closed to Republicans only as two write-in candidates qualified.

Microbrew Mincy

Yet another Democrat running for the open seat in House District 13 has a meetup event this week.

Mincy Pollock will meet and greet supporters Wednesday evening at 5:30 at Hyperion Brewing, 1740 N. Main Street. That’s in the Springfield area. Prospective attendees can RSVP here.

HD 13 is open since Nixon was compelled by redistricting to run in the abutting HD 14.

Mincy Pollock will be pressing the flesh with some retail politics.

Pollock faces better-known competition. City Councilman Garrett Dennis, former City Councilwoman, and former state Rep. Kim Daniels (she’s a one-time Council member) are running as Democrats in what will be a closed Primary (another write-in qualified last month).

Democrat Iris Hinton makes it four in the race.

Until recently, Dennis led the fundraising race, but Daniels launched with $84,900 in cash, all but $4,000 of which was self-fund and a reminder of her liquidity.

Check please

At the July 1 Atlantic Beach Commission meeting, Sen. Aaron Bean and former Rep. Cord Byrd — now serving as Florida’s Secretary of State — presented Mayor Ellen Glasser and the Commission with a check for a $500,000 appropriation to the Department of Environmental Protection funding the Atlantic Beach Aquatic Gardens/Hopkins Creek Flood Mitigation.

Atlantic Beach gets a big check moment.

The project seeks to reduce the flood stage in the surrounding Aquatic Gardens residential area — preparing the area for a storm at the 25-year/24-hour or less level. That translates to the maximum 24-hour precipitation event with a probable recurrence interval of once in 25 years. Officials say the project is not expected to produce an adverse downstream stage or peak flow rate.

Osprey landing

It was clear sailing for Moyez Limayem with the State University System Board of Governors — which recently confirmed him as the seventh President of the University of North Florida (UNF).

Limayem comes to Jacksonville from Tampa, where he served as Lynn Pippenger Dean in the Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida (USF).

Moyez Limayem brings a track record of fundraising and innovation.

“I am honored to join the University of North Florida and eager to listen, learn and work with all members of the community to grow opportunities to help students succeed,” Limayem said in a statement. “UNF is a top provider of talent in Florida, and I am committed to building on the University’s many strengths to effectively serve the region and state.”

Limayem, in his time at USF, was responsible for raising more than $126 million, 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.

Untroubled Waters

Republicans continue to coalesce around now-retired Chief of Investigations T.K. Waters ahead of the Jacksonville Sheriff Special Election.

Waters, endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis weeks ago, secured the backing of five regional Sheriffs in his bid to be Jacksonville’s top cop.

“There is a simple, uncomplicated and no-nonsense way to pick the next Sheriff of Duval County. Look for the candidate with the best combination of skill, experience, and knowledge of the issues facing our community. This formula leads to only one candidate, T.K. Waters,” asserted Duval County Sheriff Pat Ivey.

T.K. Waters is collecting supporters at a healthy rate.

DeSantis appointed Ivey at the same news conference where he endorsed Waters, so this endorsement is no surprise.

Michelle Cook, a former Jacksonville police officer now serving as Clay County Sheriff, drew on shared history in her endorsement.

“T.K. and I have served together since our days as rookie cops on the same squad. I have seen firsthand his ability to engage with the community and his passion for keeping Jacksonville safe. T.K. is the clear choice to be Jacksonville’s next Sheriff,” Cook said.

Added St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick, “Neighboring agencies frequently work together on cases, making the partnership between the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office vitally important. T.K. Waters has the experience, leadership ability and knowledge necessary to be Jacksonville’s next Sheriff.”

Waters has roughly $1.25 million on hand between a campaign account and his A Safer Jacksonville for All account. The only Republican candidate in the race, he faces a field of four Democrats in the Aug. 23 Unitary Election.

“In my 30 years in law enforcement, I have seen firsthand that officers like T.K. Waters are the type of leaders we need. He is an honest, honorable and dedicated public servant, and in addition to his commitment to community partnerships, he brings unrivaled experience to the job of ensuring a safer city,” enthused Baker County Sheriff Scotty Rhoden.

Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith added: “To T.K., the office of Sheriff is not a job, it’s a lifestyle and he’s the only candidate who has a history of standing up to the powerful, working in our communities, and is the best candidate to keep Duval County safe and provide the best services to everyone in Jacksonville.”

Port progress

JAXPORT went into the holiday weekend riding a few weeks of big announcements, including the completion of $100 million in berth enhancements to Blount Island, and an 18-year contract extension with client Trailer Bridge that solidifies Jacksonville’s place in trade between Puerto Rico and mainland United States.

The SSA Jacksonville Container Terminal at Blount Island now operates with the final part of its berth enhancements in place — rehabilitation of 700 linear feet of deep-water berthing space, which crews completed in the course of the 47-foot harbor deepening project.

Big berths cannot lie.

The 47-foot channel depth, combined with 2,400 linear feet of rebuilt berthing space, can accommodate two post-Panamax ships simultaneously.

“This project significantly enhances our deep-water berthing capabilities at Blount Island, maximizing the efficiencies created by the deepening project,” JAXPORT CEO Eric Green said in a statement. “We are grateful for the continued support from the state of Florida as we work to build the port of the future and bring more cargo — and the jobs and economic impact it supports — to Jacksonville.”

In providing space for new traffic, the Port signed a long-term commitment with Puerto Rican trade partner Trailer Bridge. Jacksonville is the top mainland port for trade with Puerto Rico, dealing with nearly 90% of all sea trade between it and the mainland.

Trailer Bridge, generating around $2.5 million annually at the Port, conducts a twice-weekly barge service between Puerto Rico and Jacksonville.

“Puerto Rico has been critical to our success as we’ve grown into one of the nation’s top seaports for the import and export of goods,” JAXPORT Board Chair Wendy Hamilton said at the Port’s most recent meeting. “As we look to the future, this partnership helps ensure we can continue to build on our role as a leader in providing supply-chain security to the island.”

Power to the people

As CEO of one of the largest public utilities in the country, Jay Stowe says JEA’s role in the community goes far beyond supplying power to the people of Jacksonville.

“Public health, public safety, economic development. In the end, we’re a utility, but really what we are is an economic development engine for the community,” he said during an interview held as part of the Florida Women in Energy Leadership Forum.

The utility’s role in that arena has grown with Jacksonville — the city is among one of the fastest-growing economies of major U.S. metro areas.

“It’s our job to be able to serve that community,” he said. “And so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Those goals aren’t overshadowing JEA’s core functions, Stowe said, but are a natural extension of the utility doing what it is supposed to — supply power.

“We understand our customers that we serve, oftentimes the second or third highest bill that they pay each month is to us,” he said. “We think that brings a lot of value, and it allows people to do things because we’re foundational to the community. When we do our jobs, well, everyone else can do them as well. And that allows economic development to prosper and the whole area to prosper.”

Stowe also commented on the importance of diversity at JEA. That includes diversifying its energy mix — the utility’s medium and long-term goals include more renewable power generation. But it also includes fostering a culture conducive to sustainably building a diverse workforce.

“I don’t think diversity is important for diversity’s sake,” he said. “I’ll be clear about this: I think you’ve got to get the right people in the right jobs, doing the right thing. But the broader perspective that we have, then the stronger we’re going to be, and the more we look like the community, then the stronger we’re going to be.

“None of this is about numbers. This is about how do we set the stage in order to be as diverse as we can, as thoughtful as we can about it. And it’s important because it makes us stronger and better. It just simply makes us stronger and better whenever we have diverse viewpoints at the table.”

To watch a video of Stowe’s interview, click on the image below:

Buzzer beater

New money is coming to the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall more quickly than anticipated, in a move that few outside the St. Johns County Commission expected.

The St. Augustine Record reports that the venue “will expand its seating capacity by about 25% and make additional upgrades in a multimillion-dollar grant-funded project approved by the St. Johns County Commission.”

Ponte Vedra Concert Hall gets some quick cash.

This approval of “the $5.4 million project at the end of a recent meeting during Commissioner comments (happened) at Chair Henry Dean’s prompting.”

“The proposal was not on the agenda,” reports Sheldon Gardner. The Board suspended its rule that more than $5,000 in funding must be put on the agenda and noticed for public discussion.

Gardner noted that the money was already in the new fiscal year’s budget, so the end result is just making the capital available sooner. Construction will start next year nonetheless.

No debate

One of the biggest things to happen in Nassau County before the holiday was (essentially) a pro forma vote — the Board of County Commissioners approved, with no debate, a resolution allowing the School Board property tax millage increase to go on the ballot this fall.

For deep red — and tax-averse — Nassau County, it’s become clear something has to give as it applies to the county’s prized public schools. It’s either generate revenue to pay teachers and staff, so they can afford to live in Nassau County, or face chronic understaffing and lower quality of education.

The 1-mill increase would generate $11.5 million over the next four years if approved. At that point, it would either sunset or be reapproved.

In May, the district put out a call for math teachers.

In most places, asking people to raise their taxes for the greater good is a hard ask, but this plan has been in the works for a while as the school district’s best move.

“At some point, the quality begins to suffer (without new investment),” Superintendent Kathy Burns said during a Board workshop in May.

“We are completing the school year with schools that have had long-term subs all year because there are not teachers to hire. What it costs to live in Nassau County — you know what that is. We have to continue to do what we need to do, I believe, to be able to recruit teachers.”

No comment

At the outset of the most recent Nassau County Commission meeting, Commissioner Aaron Bell made a statement regarding his arrest by Fernandina Beach Police on suspicion of driving under the influence.

“As I’m sure you’re all aware, last week I was accused of operating my personal vehicle while under the influence, and I went through the arrest and booking process for those accusations,” Bell said.

“I will be responding to those claims completely through the legal process. I feel that any discussion of this matter during the current meeting or other subsequent meetings, would only serve to distract from the important work of this Board. For this reason, effective immediately, I am abstaining from any further action as Chairman of both the Board of County Commissioners and the (Amelia Island) Tourist Development Council for the remainder of my term as Chairman.”

Aaron Bell plans to confine his DUI issue to the courthouse.

Bell’s DUI case disappeared days ago from the Nassau County Clerk’s public online database shortly after filing a motion to seal. Two related traffic infractions are set for a traffic court hearing July 22.

He is running for reelection in an open Republican Primary against military veteran and locally well-known entertainer Hupp Huppmann.

Top Shrimp

Lewin Diaz’s walk-off double in a tight 1-0 win on Independence Day marked the third win in four games, keeping the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (43-36) at the top of the International League East division.

Granted, the Shrimp are in a precarious three-way tie for first place, and the space between first and sixth place in the division is only two games. The Norfolk Tides (38-41) were in town this week and were five games out of first place going into Wednesday’s game.

One double, one run, game over via Lewin Diaz.

While any of the East-leading teams would be in fourth place in the West division, by the record, the Shrimp buttressed their 26-16 away record with a series victory last week over the Memphis Redbirds (44-35), one of the top three teams in the West.

In the series finale Sunday, Jacksonville batters hit five home runs in a 7-2 win, including two from La Tortuga, Willians Astudillo.

The Shrimp will head back on the road next week to face the Syracuse Mets (33-45), following the conclusion of the series with Norfolk.

Staff Reports



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