Jacksonville Bold for 10.19.22: Map meshugas

Jacksonville, USA.
Most cities are knee-deep in Midterms; in Jacksonville, it's not so simple.

Map mess

In most cities, there is an undivided focus on the 2022 Midterm Elections.

In Jacksonville, though, there are complications.

At least one of them is the creation of the Jacksonville City Council.

Critics throughout the local redistricting process warned about issues with transparency and with clear deviations from best practices throughout, as Council members went through meeting after meeting trying to find ways to keep the status quo North and West of the St. Johns River.

Jacksonville’s map of madness.

The main sticking point: Districts 7 through 10, where the percentage of African Americans is at least 57% in all four districts. Council members rejected criticism throughout deliberations, as exemplified by a March committee meeting where the map was waved through with only one no vote.

Rules Chair Brenda Priestly Jackson said she was “surprised and shocked” by any idea that the map could be non-compliant. Republican Randy DeFoor sought and got assurances from a city lawyer that the map was defensible in any possible lawsuits challenging the map.

“I think it was open; I think it was transparent,” said Republican Council President Sam Newby.

All that may have been for nothing.

Judge Marcia Morales Howard sided with plaintiffs including the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP, the ACLU of Florida Northeast Chapter, Florida Rising, and the Northside Coalition. She ruled that the map, which largely looked like those in previous years, promulgated an “unnecessary racial segregation.”

What does the city do from here?

They are appealing the judge’s ruling. Mohammad O. Jazil of the Tallahassee office of Holtzman Vogel will serve as outside counsel.

And they also have a redistricting committee composed of six Republicans and Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman, originally appointed to the Council by former Gov. Rick Scott.

Democrats may balk, but the loudest voices supporting the disputed map were in fact Democrats, suggesting the creative cartography crosses party lines.

Shaking trees

For the Florida Disaster Fund, First Lady Casey DeSantis isn’t taking no for an answer.

At a Jacksonville Harley-Davidson dealership Monday, DeSantis noted that while the fund raised $45 million already, much more was needed given the long-term nature of Hurricane Ian recovery.

“We’re not going to lay off the gas,” she said, noting the fund is “raising as much money as humanly possible” as she continues “shaking the trees.”

Casey DeSantis will not take no for an answer.

Donors big and small attested to the work being done and their commitment to the cause.

Florida Blue North Florida Market President Darnell Smith touted his company’s $1 million contribution as just part of the help the health care giant is offering storm victims.

“At CSX we care deeply about the communities that welcome us each day, but none more than those here in the state of Florida,” said CSX’s Brian Tucker, extolling the rail giant’s commitment.

The Harley dealership hosting DeSantis Monday was also in a charitable mood: 100% of proceeds from Adamec’s “Florida Rides Together” T-shirts go to the fund.


You might have missed this last month (we did), but as of the end of August, Sen. Travis Hutson won another term by default.

Hutson won a tough Senate District 6 Primary against populist Gerry James — closed to Republican voters only by two write-in candidates.

The Primary wrapped, and both write-ins withdrew.

Travis Hutson gets another term by default.

“After further consideration,” James Higbee decided to withdraw, sending a letter to Secretary of State Cord Byrd on Aug. 31.

Weston Adwell sent the exact same letter on Sept. 1.

Write-in candidates often pop up to close a Primary, then withdraw.

Give Higbee and Adwell credit for at least not writing the letter to Byrd on the same day. That might have looked suspicious.

Jamie to Jax

Star power is coming to Duval County this week on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.

On Thursday, Democratic National Committee Chair Jamie Harrison visits Jacksonville, offering a national boost to a campaign that needs it — given Ron DeSantis’ lopsided fundraising and earned media.

Jamie Harrison gets out of his safe zone.

Where will they be? Well, that’s still a secret, information attainable via RSVP only. Sign up here.

Crist’s event is billed as a “bus tour kickoff,” suggesting Friday will bring other similar appearances throughout the state.

Early in the cycle, Harrison faced criticism for not being sufficiently engaged in his role as DNC Chair, spending more time at home than some unnamed insiders liked, per NBC News.

But rumors of an early exit appear to have been exaggerated.

Buckhorn primary

Jacksonville City Council member Leanna Gutierrez Cumber continues to make an impression on people outside of Jacksonville as the 2023 mayoral race heats up.

She was pictured with former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who used that picture to highlight his trip to Jacksonville last week and the city’s potential as it enters a new era.

“Great trip yesterday to Jax to see old friends and to talk about how to build inclusive cities focused on their waterfront assets,” Buckhorn tweeted. “Amazing opportunities in Jax, an election of a new Mayor, great candidates and unlimited potential. Time to get it done Jax.”

Cumber, running a campaign predicated on the idea of getting Jacksonville “moving,” frames her campaign as akin to what Democrat Buckhorn did in Tampa, where during his tenure, waterfront development was the catalyst for the city leveling up.

She highlights Buckhorn’s affirmation with one of her own.

“Bob turned Tampa around by getting its house in order & creating an environment conducive for high-quality growth. We need to lead by his example here in Jax. He’s a good friend and great leader!”

While Buckhorn didn’t offer a formal endorsement, the implication was clear: He would be comfortable with a Mayor Cumber.

She continues robust fundraising, with nearly $3 million cash on hand between her JAX First political committee and her campaign account, a number bolstered with not just state but national support, including a Texas fundraiser with former Gov. Rick Perry.

What about football?

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry usually adheres to a no-politics rule on NFL Sundays.

This most recent Sunday was expected to be the same.

But … “It’s the Sunday NFL game day decade long no political tweets rule for those of us that respect the game and the community it brings. Now let’s go Jaguars,” Curry tweeted, before the Jags lost their third game in a row, eventually compelling Curry to tweet on something that’s less of a lost cause than the Jags’ season.

“I am proud to stand with our first responders and 5 NE Florida sheriffs in supporting TK Waters for Sheriff,” Curry said, offering an endorsement that was most notable for its timing: during Sunday night NFL football.

“Obedience vs wisdom,” Curry contended. “Choose wisely.”

Will a Sunday Night Football endorsement move voters?

Likely not — even in the Curry household.

But it can be a measure of how Republicans recognize Democrat Lakesha Burton is running a serious campaign.

The Mayor’s endorsement and other issues may be on the agenda at Friday’s First Coast Tiger Bay, where Waters debates with Burton. Doors open at 11:30 at the River Club. Reservations are needed, as is the purchase of a $28 lunch.

Young blood?

With scant weeks left before Election Day, it appears the next Mayor of Fernandina Beach, a town with a median age of 55, may well be younger than 30. City Commissioner Bradley Bean is one of the Commissioners who are eligible to run for the post, and the only one of two filed candidates who have raised or spent any money on the effort.

Both Bean’s and Commissioner David Sturges’ terms end in 2024, so the door was open to run for Mayor if they choose.

Which they did.

However, Sturges has yet to file a campaign finance report this cycle, essentially saying he had raised and spent no money so far.

And Election Day is coming up like a car speeding down State Road 200.

Putting up signs, meeting voters.

Bean, however, mounted a traditional campaign effort.

In September, he received contributions from The Fiorentino Group ($500), and Commissioner-elect Justin Taylor of the Ocean Highway and Port Authority ($150), among the $1,550 he picked up over the month.

Bean raised more than $7,200 for the cycle, spending nearly $6,000 going into October. On Sept. 21, almost $2,000 went to Intracoastal Media Group of Jacksonville for campaign videos.

In a 60-second ad posted on Oct. 14, Bean laid out what he sees as accomplishments over the past couple of years, and his vision for the city.

To watch the video, please click on the image below:

Signs & ads

Some old campaign wisdom is to not spend too many campaign dollars on signs.

The reasoning: Signs don’t vote, and print news ads are unseen.

However, in the Nassau County School Board runoffs, four candidates competing for two seats have put much of their late campaign spending into signs.

While School Board member Jamie Deonas pulled $17,500 into his campaign account since it started, his in-kind contributions and expenditures are more than $7,500, while educator Shannon Hogue is at more than $9,000 so far, despite having raised less cash.

They’re both spending on signs.

It’s a yard sign election in Nassau County.

Deonas gave his campaign more than $2,100 in signs in late September, listed as an in-kind contribution.

Between Sept. 27 and Oct. 4, Hogue spent a combined $774 in two sign purchases with Island Signs of Fernandina Beach, bought an added $615 in signs from Big B’s Yard Signs in Fernandina, and $64 in sign frames from Lowe’s.

Deonas, the current member from District 3, is running for the District 1 open seat.

The situation is similar in the other runoff between Curtis Gaus and Albert Wagner for the District 3 seat vacated by Deonas.

Going into the second week of October, Gaus had raised $8,550 and spent more than $8,200, while Wagner showed $9,350 raised and more than $7,500 spent.

Gaus, a former West Nassau High School principal, gave his campaign $2,000 on Sept. 24 and turned it around with $1,125 spent with Florida Sun Printing in Callahan for signs, and $600 with Buzz Town Media of Callahan for newspaper ads.

Wagner, a former Yulee Elementary schoolteacher, hasn’t spent much campaign money since early September, but that expenditure was also to Florida Sun Printing for $1,556 for signs.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

The USO of Greater Jacksonville joins the regional Transportation and Logistic Organization Network (TALON) for a career fair Thursday to match transitioning military and families with employers in the area.

About 20 companies in the transportation, logistics and manufacturing industries will present career opportunities available for potential employees across a wide range of job skills.

Organizers expect about 150 job seekers to attend.

Employers on hand include:

— USO of Greater Jacksonville


— COMTO Jacksonville

— CSCMP Jacksonville Roundtable

— Florida Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association

— JAX Chamber — Transportation & Logistics Council

— WTS Northeast Florida Chapter

— The Propeller Club of Jacksonville

— Transportation Club of Jacksonville

The career fair will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Holiday Inn (I-295 and Baymeadows), 11081 Nursery Fields Drive, Jacksonville.

Health scare

A free, community health service provided to Nassau County School District students got caught up in the coronavirus vaccine paranoia that continues to grip Florida’s residents and influence the state’s public policy.

“We have the opportunity to do heart screenings for all our students at all of our high schools, thanks to two families — Kristy Brindley and Ms. Brenda Vaijuk,” Nassau County Schools Superintendent Kathy Burns said.

“Ms. Brenda donated $10,000 to all of our high schools — over $2,500 for each one of our high schools — but they’re also sponsoring this program for our students in the high schools. This is of no charge to any of our students, for them to be screened … for heart conditions. Sudden cardiac arrest is the No. 1 cause of death for student-athletes. So, you can have your child screened for any risk factors that they may have.”

The process is safe, non-invasive, painless, and, again, free, she added.

The Board ended up in a COVID-19 kerfuffle over cardiac tests.

But supplying free health care to people in need is drawing skepticism in a country in which good health care is expensive — so it didn’t take long for rumors about this public service to arise through social media.

“I have to dispel a rumor,” said Nassau County School Board Chair Donna Martin. “The rumor is we’re going to use this to force COVID vaccines on these students. No, that is not at all the intention of this. It’s a shame that people feel the need to take such a positive thing and turn it that way.”

Whale, wait and see

If the Port of Fernandina Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) takes a position on a proposed new federal vessel rule meant to save North Atlantic right whale lives, it will be after other agencies and governments make their call.

A 10-knot vessel speed rule was in effect for areas where right whales transit, but it was for vessels 65 feet or longer. The new rule drops the length to 35 feet for Nov. 15-April 15 when whales and their calves are in the area.

A vessel sits wrecked after colliding with a right whale calf. Image via Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Nassau County Manager Taco Pope mentioned the issue with the Port, along with Fernandina City Manager Dale Martin and the city marina manager, to see if any local governments or agencies were going to take a position on the rule.

Harbor pilots are concerned about a provision in the proposed rule that requires immediate reporting of deviation from the speed restriction when such deviations are necessary.

“I reached out to my counterparts at JAXPORT and Port Canaveral, and both of them are considering their positions, taking some public action,” OHPA Executive Director David Kaufman said at the last OHPA meeting.

Commissioner Miriam Hill expressed her support for a narrow exception for the harbor pilots and their operations, but she was uncomfortable with authorizing a letter since other times OHPA authorized such letter-writing, she said the content of the note didn’t fit the intentions of the Commissioners.

Fullwood said OHPA will see what other Commissions decide to do and figure out their own path from there.

“Personally, I don’t think we need to write a letter,” OHPA Chair Danny Fullwood said. “I think that’s going to be covered by so many other ports that they won’t even look (at the opinion from) our little Port, and whatever they’re going to do they’re going to do.”

There is also a strong conservationist presence locally.

“We have a large right whale contingent in Fernandina (Beach) and Nassau County, and I wouldn’t want to do anything to upset that group,” Fullwood said.

Ribbon cutting

The Chemours Company officially launched its new mineral sand mine, Trail Ridge South, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week.

Attending the Oct. 14 event were several political and business leaders, including U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, state Reps. Bobby Payne and Clay Yarborough, Clay County Commission Vice Chair Betsy Condon and Commissioner Mike Cella, Bradford County Commissioner Carolyn Spooner, Clay County Chamber of Commerce President Jon Cantrell, and Clay Economic Development Corp President Crawford Powell.

The new 30-acre project will give Chemours access to mineral deposits needed to produce titanium dioxide, which it sells under “Ti-Pure” branding. Titanium dioxide is a key part of coatings, plastics, laminates, and many other products.

Chemours Company officials launch its new mineral sand mine, Trail Ridge South.

In a news release, Chemours said Trail Ridge South will use mobile mining units (MMUs) that address traditional dredge mining concerns such as emissions and dust levels. The facility will also recycle 98% of the water used in the manufacturing process.

“A reliable supply of quality ilmenite and other minerals is critical to our ability to serve customers. Sourcing those resources from a community we’re already so deeply connected to makes it even better — it’s a win-win,” said Mark Smith, the vice president of operations for Chemours Titanium Technologies. “We’re incredibly proud to call Clay County home and look forward to many years of safe operations and partnership.”

The new mine is a $93 million investment that will create approximately 50 new jobs in the region. Chemours is currently hiring operators, technicians, heavy equipment operators and mechanics to work at Trail Ridge South.

“Chemours is a great community partner, and they have invested significantly in the Bradford and Clay County area by providing good-paying jobs and contributing donations and outreach to their local communities. Whether their employees are helping with a Keystone Heights lakes cleanup with Keep Clay Beautiful or donating funds for STEM projects, Chemours is committed to helping their neighbors, and we look forward to the company’s long-term success in our state and this region in particular,” Payne said. “In addition, Chemours provides vital sources of minerals such as titanium found specifically in our North Florida area that supply the world’s needs in many different products.”


Spooktacular is back for its 35th year at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. The annual event, which draws in more than 50,000 new and returning visitors, began Friday and runs select nights through Oct. 31.

“It’s As Wicked as You Wish” features 10 themed areas ranging from pure Halloween traditions to spine-chilling excitement.

Less-spooky, kid-friendly experiences include candy stations, performers and music entertainment. Those looking for less chill and more thrill will find menacing characters lurking in the darkest corners of the Lost Swamp and Wicked Gardens scare zones.

Jacksonville Zoo celebrates the annual ‘Spooktacular’ Halloween.

Spooktacular also features returning favorites like the Gliding Ghoul, witch storyteller, face painting and stilt walker.

Guests of all ages are encouraged to dress up in their favorite costumes and capture their best selfies in an array of photo ops at exhibits such as Scarecrow Alley, Phantom Forest and Mystical Safari.

The festival-style Great Lawn boasts the Great Maze, a food truck with themed eats such as graveyard nachos as well as Halloween souvenirs and memorabilia. Food and alcoholic drinks are available for purchase at restaurants and bars.

Upcoming Spooktacular nights include Oct. 20-23 and Oct. 27-31 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tickets cost $20-$25 for members and $30-$35 for non-members and can be purchased online.

Cowford Blues

Would you want to rehash another disappointing game, this time one in which the Jacksonville Jaguars lost to “Father Time,” as the Times-Union’s Nate Monroe called Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan.

Of course not. Let us turn to the bovine.

Recently, Jags long snapper Ross Matiscik journeyed to Lee to spend a day at the Full Circle Dairy Farm. A video of the excursion is available.

Spending time with the ladies. Screengrab via Jacksonville Jaguars video.

The 2-4 Jaguars are back home Sunday, with another 1 p.m. kick, this time against the New York Giants. The Giants are sitting at 5-1 and won their last three games. Yet, the money is with the Jaguars.

Odds opened for the game with the Jags by 1.5 and increased to a 3-point favorite by Tuesday afternoon.

Staff Reports


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