Jacksonville Bold for 7.20.22: The final budget
Budget bonanza: big capital spending as Jacksonville feels flush.

jacksonville cash
Lenny Curry seeks to give Jacksonville a going-away present.

Curry’s last budget

What a difference seven years makes.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is releasing his final budget Thursday, and proposed spending will be at levels unimaginable in 2015.

Back then, the brand-new Mayor had to push forth his first budget proposal, which was a lean $1.14 billion.

Curry’s full budget, per the Jax Daily Record, is expected to come in north of $1.5 billion, with nearly $500 million in capital improvement projects.

Lenny Curry says goodbye in a big way — with a blockbuster budget. Image via WJCT.

Defund the police? Not here. In fact, WJXT noted that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is due for about a $40 million boost, year over year.

All of this is happening, the Florida Times-Union reports, amid an expected proposal to cut the property tax. The timing is a bit ironic, given the Duval County School Board has a referendum slated that would raise millage.

Perhaps, it will be a wash.

The budget is officially introduced Thursday, so expect coverage of the process in this space — and Florida Politics.

Name game

In the wake of reports that candidate Erick Aguilar was removed from the Republican fundraising platform WinRed after revelations he had been appropriating the identities of national Republicans like Ron DeSantis in pursuit of small-dollar donations, DeSantis had his say Monday in Jacksonville.

“If my name is being used to trick people into providing donations for something that they don’t necessarily want to do, that is definitely wrong,” DeSantis said of the GOP candidate for Florida’s 4th Congressional District.

Erick Aguilar namedrops for cash — confusing seniors in the process.

The Governor made the comments Monday at Florida State College in Jacksonville, responding to Action News Jax reporter Jake Stofan asking if Aguilar should be kicked out of a debate next weekend.

“I haven’t seen those emails. I have heard about it. It is wrong,” DeSantis said. “At the end of the day, to use somebody’s logo and use their name and act like it’s coming — people are supporting me, when it’s really going (other), that’s a fraud on the donor, and that is wrong.”

DeSantis did not offer an opinion on whether Aguilar should sit out next weekend’s Sunshine Summit debate, but his words very clearly condemned the decision by Aguilar, a second-time candidate for Congress, to appropriate the identities of DeSantis, former President Donald Trump, and other prominent Republicans in donor pitches via the WinRed platform.

Civic duty

Also on Monday, DeSantis visited FSCJ in downtown Jacksonville, to spotlight Civics Academies funding as it relates to workforce training.

This “one-in-a-kind workforce education” program will distribute $6.5 million to three state colleges for civics career academies linking workforce education to potential foundations for public service. One of them will be FSCJ, with the others being downstate in Polk and Broward counties.

His goal was “multiple pathways” to success for students, the Governor said, stressing the importance of career and technical education, as well as civics education.

“Some people want all this ideology in. We got all that ideology out,” DeSantis said, in favor of more important subjects such as civics.

Offering familiar critiques of indoctrination and “groupthink,” DeSantis recognized the importance of a “knowledge-based approach to civics” — as opposed to “action civics.”

Fish fight

So far, nothing has worked effectively enough to reduce red snapper discards in federal waters off Florida’s Atlantic coast.

And there are few options left within the present regulatory structure to do something about it.

Now, massive fishery closures (once unthinkable) could be on the way, either statewide or confined to just Northeast Florida, the heart of the snapper-grouper fishery.

“I don’t know how many people are aware of the kind of magnitude of what we’re talking about here,” said Jessica McCawley, director of Marine Fisheries Management at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “We’re talking about 55 species (of the snapper-grouper complex) that you couldn’t fish for, or maybe there’s giant areas in federal waters that you couldn’t go to bottom-fish.”

Too many snappers caught, too many thrown back, too many altogether.

There’s also a possibility of time-area closures, where bottom-fishing could be open for one month and closed for the others.

McCawley spoke to FWC Commissioners in Jacksonville about the intentions of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which oversees federal fishery management from North Carolina through the Florida Keys.

“The National Marine Fisheries Service is telling us that we have to reduce those discards by a pretty high percentage,” McCawley said at the FWC July meetings. “So, since red snapper is overfished and undergoing overfishing, they are saying it has to be done immediately, but ‘immediately’ is not really defined.”

Despite clear and vocal opposition from Florida officials to these closure plans, they’re scheduled for consideration at the next Council meetings in September.

Vision thing

A wave of mail continues in the Democratic Primary to replace Sen. Audrey Gibson in Tallahassee, with at least one recent piece of literature from “visionary leader” Reggie Gaffney.

“Reggie Gaffney knows we can do better,” asserts the back cover of the four-pager.

The greatest thing since sliced bread?

The interior of the document extols his record.

“Today, Reggie Gaffney has led by example and delivered for his district at levels not seen since the Consolidation of Jacksonville. Tomorrow, Reggie Gaffney will stand with you and fight to protect the rights and freedoms of all people in the city of Jacksonville,” Gaffney said.

The mailer makes specific reference to the “unprecedented assault on women’s rights,” and one context for Gaffney’s new interest in abortion policies may be that the Planned Parenthood PAC endorsed Tracie Davis against him. Gaffney filed a local bill to pay for abortion travel to other states for city employees, but the bill failed.

SD 5 includes much of Duval County’s northern and western territory.

Lake Liberal?

The bruising campaign in House District 16 continues, and Republican Chet Stokes has already spent nearly $20,000 in the last week on a contrast spot-hitting opponent Lake Ray.

It’s exactly what you’d expect.

The ad claims Ray is a “liberal” who takes money from pro-abortion Democrats, meaning a 2021 donation from City Council member Gaffney — which the Ray campaign refunded July 1.

The Stokes campaign is going deeper with investment in this ad, expanding the buy in the coming days to define Ray to voters who don’t know him in the eastern part of the district, while affirming the bona fides of “bold conservative leader” Stokes.

To watch the full ad, click the image below:

Comfortably Lumb

The Republican Primary in Jacksonville’s House District 17 may see Jessica Baker on the ballot, but for many stakeholders, the vote is a referendum on her husband, Tim Baker, the political consultant central to the rise of incumbent Curry.

Robin Lumb, the city’s recently retired policy adviser, is the latest example.

Lumb is going to run the campaign of Christina Meredith, who is well behind Ms. Baker in terms of fundraising and endorsements.

Robin Lumb is standing behind the other prominent Republican in the mayoral Primary.

“I’ve been a conservative activist in the Republican Party for more almost two decades,” Lumb said. “Christina Meredith is one of the best candidates I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. She’s a woman of character, principle, and determination. She’ll be an outstanding state Representative.”

Lumb served on the Jacksonville City Council through 2015 and also as chair of the Republican Party of Duval County. In that capacity, he helped to engineer an endorsement for Curry by the party’s executive committee ahead of that year’s First Election.

Mayoral moola

Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis isn’t officially in the 2023 mayoral race (at least not yet).

But even before filing, Davis continues to be the leading fundraiser in the field.

Davis’ political committee, Building a Better Economy, raised $78,000 between July 2 and July 8, with AT&T reaching out with $30,000 of that sum. The account is far north of $4 million on hand.

The next leading fundraiser is, like Davis, a Republican: City Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber’s JAX First political committee collected $35,000 during the same week, and it now has nearly $2.25 million on hand. She also has roughly $230,000 in hard money.

Daniel Davis is not a mayoral candidate yet, but he has a head start.

Cumber also secured the endorsement of fellow Councilwoman Randy DeFoor this week. DeFoor donated to Cumber in June, so this is not a complete surprise.

While Republican state-level political committees linked to mayoral candidates did well, the same can’t be said for those belonging to Democrats. The Donna for Duval committee controlled by Donna Deegan raised just $30 during the first full week of July, and Deegan has roughly $525,000 between the accounts.

Sen. Audrey Gibson’s A Rising Tide political committee raised no money at all during the same week. Gibson, who raised $7,300 in hard money last month, has a little more than $107,000 in the committee account.

These are the only four mayoral candidates with state level committees, which report weekly due to the 2022 Primary cycle. Fundraising updates for the others won’t be available until next month.


A political blogger recently smeared Clay County judicial candidate Ray Forbess Jr. for helping accused pedophiles beat their charges in court.

Perpetrating the allegation — which is false — was blogger Jacob Engels, who has close ties to infamous provocateur Roger Stone.

Stone was banned from multiple social media platforms for “inauthentic behavior.”

Ray Forbess faces accusations that have long since been debunked.

His hit piece, titled “FL Judicial Candidate Helped Pedophiles & Child Molesters ‘Get Off’ In Private Practice,” claims Forbess “boasted” about helping several child molesters get charges dismissed.

While the rumor — which has been debunked — spread quickly with other disreputable outlets, such as “Big League Politics,” the hit piece cites Victoria Mussallem, an attorney who represented the defendants.

Mussallem left the Forbess Law Firm, run by the candidate’s father, five years before Ray Forbess Jr. joined the firm.

As reported by Susan Clark Armstrong of FLCGA News, the allegation has already had negative effects on Forbess Jr.’s personal life. The former prosecutor said his wife received abusive text messages, and they both fear the fallout could harm his 6-year-old son.

“If I’ve done something, I will always come clean with it,” Forbess said. “And that was what’s so sad to me — I’m getting attacked for something that is not me. I can show that it’s not me. I was at the State Attorney’s office at the time, wasn’t even working at the firm, and I’m getting attacked for something that is not true.”

Before the allegations, Forbess Jr. held a considerable lead in the polls over his two opponents, real estate attorney Geraldine Hartin and prosecutor Tonya Barge. He had also received endorsements from police and firefighter unions as well as Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook.

Hartin and Cook say they believe former candidate Chris Johns is the source of the smear, and that he had shared the shoddy information with their campaigns before becoming public by Engels.

Dean scene

Jacksonville University’s nascent law school has selected a dean and other leadership.

Nicholas Allard, formerly dean and president at the Brooklyn Law School and senior counsel at megafirm Dentons, will be the founding dean of the college of law.

“Nick Allard is a world-class legal scholar and administrator, who is widely recognized and respected as both a thought leader and an educator,” said Jacksonville University President Tim Cost. “Jacksonville University is honored to welcome him as founding dean of our College of Law, where he will have a tremendous impact on shaping the next generation of legal minds.”

Nicholas Allard, welcome to Jacksonville.

Allard’s experience is broad, including a stint helming the Public Policy Department and the Government Advocacy Practice Group at Patton Boggs in Washington, D.C. He is excited to help translate his experience into the formation of this new law school.

“The opportunity to serve as Jacksonville University’s Founding Law Dean offers a platform like no other to share my passion for law and the honorable profession and put my experience and relationships to good use,” Allard said. “I look forward to building upon years of preparation led by President Cost, the encouragement and support of Jacksonville, and working synergistically across disciplines with the University’s vibrant community of scholars and teachers. Our goal is for the College of Law to be in the vanguard of providing students outstanding, forward-looking preparation and practical training for future success and service.”

Cool billion

University of Florida faculty surpassed $1 billion in research spending for the first time in 2022, developing treatments for diseases, new agricultural products, engineering solutions and countless other advancements.

UF News is reporting that with $1.076 billion in research expenditures, the university joins an exclusive group of about 15 public universities around the country to surpass $1 billion, including the University of Michigan, UCLA and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

UF Vice President for Research David Norton praised the faculty and staff for driving the university’s relentless pursuit of new knowledge and discovery through research and scholarship.

“Surpassing the $1 billion research milestone reflects UF’s continued rise as one of the leading research universities in the United States,” Norton said. “But this number represents far more than dollars – it represents the value of these researchers’ remarkable intellect and talent and its impact on our state, our nation and the world.”

The data is based on UF’s response to the National Science Foundation’s annual Higher Education Research and Development Survey (HERD), which gathers comparable spending data from hundreds of universities around the country. The numbers reflect spending for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. In the last HERD report, based on 2020 fiscal year data, UF ranked 16th among public universities.

To watch a promotional video, click on the image below:

Meet the new boss

Chris Ragucci and his extensive baggage are on the way out at the Port of Fernandina, as he’s sold his company, Worldwide Terminals, to a joint effort of Utah and New York firms called Transportation Infrastructure Partners (TIP).

Worldwide Terminals owns Nassau Terminals, which runs the Port of Fernandina.

TIP’s split 50-50 between Savage Services in Salt Lake City and Ridgewood Infrastructure in New York City, with Savage being the operating partner.

In which a place of trade, trades hands.

Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) Commissioners weren’t even aware of the sale until this week, which tracks with Ragucci’s act first and tell OHPA later actions seen in other deals, like the one that brought river cruise ships to the Port.

For his part, Ragucci was all smiles at the announcement.

“From the bottom of my heart, I can tell you this is a great day for this Port,” Ragucci said.

The TIP partnership also runs Carolina Marine Terminal in Wilmington, North Carolina, which was a factor in the deal.

“The one thing that really drove me to seek interest in Fernandina is customer sharing,” Savage Operations Director Butch Gilbert said. “We have customers in North Carolina that would like to expand, and we’ve already spoken to customers in Fernandina who would like to expand north, so it’s a great opportunity to share customers.”

Ragucci will stay on for six months as a consultant.


A Florida-made World War II tugboat is back in the Sunshine State after decades of service that included use as a multipurpose vessel to run supplies and rescue missions across the English Channel between England and Normandy following the June 6, 1944, invasion.

The tug, Tiger ST 479, returned to the United States from Sweden via JAXPORT, arriving aboard a Spliethoff vessel. The Swedish crew lifted the tug onto the St. Johns River, and Cross State Towing led it to a private Jacksonville dock.

A boat with some history.

Private donors awarded the tug to the DeLand Historic Trust, which worked with JAXPORT to bring the tug back to the United States. The intention is to use it as a national monument dedicated to the crews and builders of harbor tugs.

“This is an incredible survivor. It is the only one to ever come home to where it was built,” Trust President Dan Friend said in a statement. “We are just over the cloud, over the top, that this is going to come home. (JAXPORT Director of Project Cargo) Rick (Schiappacasse) was extremely supportive and provided information that was crucial to getting this done.”

Kitty Hall

Not too many readers would want to take members of the Jacksonville City Council home and make them part of the family, but Jax Animal Care is betting that people won’t feel the same about Thursday’s feline stand-ins.

“Kitty Council will be in session on Thursday, July 21 from 9:30 until 2:00. The kittens are taking over and turning City Hall into Kitty Hall. Adoption fees are $20 for kittens or adopt two for the price of one! Adoption fees are FREE on all adult cats.”

The feline BOGO special will be purr-fect for cat lovers, though it is uncertain whether there are even bigger price breaks for people who want to adopt 19 at a time and reenact City Council business as “kitty council business” in the privacy of their own homes.

Check out COJ.net/pets for more information on the animals available! While City Council members are subject to two-term limits, there is no limitation to the term one of these special rescues could spend in your heart.

Meyer time

It was going great until it wasn’t for Max Meyer, the former Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp and highly ranked pitching prospect who recently made his debut with the Miami Marlins against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Meyer gave up two home runs and five runs total over a little more than five innings of work. He also kept his composure and struck out five batters, giving hope to those who believe he’s the Marlins’ next big thing.

We knew Max Meyer before he was famous.

“I thought he had really, really electric stuff,” said Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto, according to MLB.com. “He has a really good slider. Obviously, the swing-and-miss stuff — his fastball is good, he mixed the change-up in when he needed.

“I thought he threw the ball really well, especially for your first start. He didn’t seem like he was nervous out there. He seemed like he had good control on the mound, good confidence. He looks like he’s going to be a good pitcher for a long time.”

The Shrimp (48-42), meanwhile, have an unusual several consecutive days off before starting on Friday a three-game series at home against the Charlotte Knights (33-57).

Jacksonville split its last series 3-3 with the Syracuse Mets (40-50), notching two 4-0 shutout wins among the three. The mad scramble at the top of the International League East means that the Shrimp dropped to a game behind division-leading Lehigh Valley IronPigs in second place, tied with the Durham Bulls.

Staff Reports


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