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Going into Election Day, Republicans are well-positioned.
But in Duval County, there is noise about a race that does not involve Marco Rubio, Ron DeSantis, or T.K. Waters.
Duval GOP Chair Dean Black is facing a leadership challenge.
Former Chair Robin Lumb alleges Black, one write-in election away from becoming a state Representative, is canceling a meeting because he doesn’t want new members who might support Moms 4 Liberty member and spokesperson Quisha King over Black as Party Chair.
King says she is exploring a run for Chair, which would present the most serious challenge to Black in a while.
“Dean claims the only reason he canceled the Nov. 21 REC meeting was because it was during Thanksgiving week,” Lumb wrote in an email obtained by Jacksonville Bold. “If this is true and Dean isn’t trying to keep Quisha King from running for REC Chair in December, there’s a simple solution: Just move the meeting to Monday, Nov. 14.”
Lumb offered to pay the facility fee for the rescheduled meeting.
“If we hold the meeting on Nov. 14 those prospective members who’ve been waiting to join the REC — including Quisha King — can be voted into the REC that night. Problem solved. The ball is in Dean’s court: Will Dean do the right thing and schedule the REC meeting for Nov. 14, or will he deliberately block a vote on new REC members?”
Lumb said the email “speaks for itself.”
In response, Black took a swipe at Lumb.
“It would seem Duval Democrats have a new ally in Robin Lumb, who seems hellbent on dividing the GOP in the weeks leading up to a critical election. While we are working diligently to flip Duval Red in November, it is a shame Robin is choosing to release various “sour grapes” communications and leak inner-party squabbles to the media.
“The Board of Directors unanimously voted to cancel the November meeting due to the Thanksgiving holiday. As far as Robin’s multiple failed attempts to engineer a potentially illegal ‘special’ meeting, I do not believe the majority of Republican Executive Committee (REC) members support this at the eleventh hour, so he can interfere in our December officer elections.”
Meanwhile, King sent out an email pushing a Mudville Grille meet-and-greet Thursday.
“I expect to be a candidate for Duval REC Chair when we elect Republican Party officers in December. I’d love to meet with you and tell you about my plans!”
For those with longish memories, it’s yet another potential turn in the cycle of party leadership. Black took over four years ago, winning by three votes against Karyn Morton. The great drama then was that Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson carried Duval County.
It’s worth raising the question of exactly how relevant county parties are, especially on the Republican side. DeSantis has his own independent political operation on the state level.
Neither Daniel Davis nor LeAnna Cumber likely will bother to try to rig a party endorsement the way Lenny Curry did in 2015, aided and abetted by the aforementioned Lumb, who moved on to city hall as a policy adviser once Curry became Mayor.
This will heat up, presumably, after the election. King is highly regarded by the Governor’s Office and First Lady Casey DeSantis. We’d love to be a fly on the wall during upcoming REC meetings.
Do endorsements matter?
Cross-party endorsements are all the rage in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s race. Will they matter to voters?
In the wake of First Lady Molly Curry endorsing Democrat Lakesha Burton, Ken Jefferson gave his endorsement to Republican T.K. Waters Monday.
“We need a Sheriff who will guide and lead the men and women who serve and protect us by enforcing the laws of the land, prevent crime and disorder, and make our city safer for everyone. Make no mistake: There is only one candidate that I trust to do that. I endorse T.K. Waters for Sheriff and encourage the 22,000 people who supported me to consider doing the same.”
Which endorsement matters most? Depends on your perspective.
Waters partisans note the timing of the endorsement matters as much as anything else, and they timed their endorsement event for the first day of early voting.
Burton has had the Curry endorsement for some time, we are told, but except for earned media, there hasn’t been a lot of mileage.
Will there be ads? Robocalls? There’s money for it on both sides.
As the race nears the finish line, Waters enjoys a financial edge over Burton. He has roughly $200,000 to spend in his campaign account.
Waters also had roughly $477,000 in his A Safer Jacksonville for All political committee, even after spending more than $500,000 the week ending Oct. 14 ($450,000 of that money went to the Duval County Republican Executive Committee).
Burton has roughly $220,000 in her Make Every Voice Count committee and roughly $116,000 in her campaign account.
Third time’s the charm
This Summer, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce passed on two different opportunities to endorse a Gaffney.
But not the third, as the group is now endorsing Reggie Gaffney, Jr. in the Jacksonville City Council District 7 race.
Ahead of the August elections, the Chamber endorsed Tracie Davis over Reggie Gaffney, Sr. for Senate and Nahshon Nicks over Gaffney Jr. in the District 7 race, where Jr. looks to replace Sr.
But ahead of November, the Chamber has made its peace with the younger Gaffney, who is expected to easily win his heavily Democratic district against Republican Charles Barr.
“Reggie grew up in public service, understands the needs of the district, and is focused on how he can address them on the City Council,” JAXBIZ Board Chair Abel Harding said. “We look forward to working with him on the City Council.”
Jacksonville City Council Vice-President Ron Salem is ramping up his re-election campaign next month.
— Ron Salem (@Ron_Salem) October 24, 2022
Salem, a Republican seeking his second term on the Council, plans an official campaign launch event on Nov. 18 at the Ramallah-American Club on Jacksonville’s Southside.
The host committee speaks to the breadth of his support, including former Mayor John Peyton, the Mousa Consulting Group, Marty Fiorentino, John Baker, and Gary Chartrand.
Suggested contributions for the Friday night event are $100.
Salem is running for re-election in City Council At Large Group 2, and he has a financial advantage over Democratic challenger Joshua Hicks, his only opponent so far. Salem has on hand roughly $132,000 in his campaign account and roughly $190,000 in his Moving Jacksonville Forward political committee. Hicks has less than $60,000.
Despite the cash disadvantage, Hicks is still swinging, and a new fundraising email suggests a line of attack.
His campaign is betting on spotlighting the incumbent’s role in the recycling crisis, amid new reporting about inspections of people’s recycling bins.
“After we all paid a waste management tax and didn’t receive the corresponding city services for 6+ months, my opponent has a big idea to clean up the mess that he created,” Hicks writes donors of plans to spend $560,000 on reviews of people’s recycling. He also mentions the city’s solid waste fund.
“While my opponent “managed” Jacksonville’s waste management, the city has had to borrow more than $31 million to keep the budget afloat. That deficit could grow to $193 million by 2029. Think of what we could do with that money. His financial mismanagement is costing us all dearly.”
“It’s the latest example of what’s wrong with our city government. Career politicians kicking the can on important decisions because they want to get reelected and please their donors,” Hicks adds.
The city cut recycling during Mayor Curry’s second term because the haulers were short-staffed, leading to the unsightly specter of people dumping recyclables at local parks. Hicks is betting people haven’t forgotten about that mess.
Working on the river
The good news for the St. Johns River is its health continues to improve. The bad news is its tributaries are not in great shape and need some attention.
Hurricane Ian didn’t help matters.
“In Central Florida, about 10 million gallons of sewage spilled into our tributaries, and so with us being downstream, that impacts us,” St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman said to the Cuppa Jax civic discussion group.
“Even though we’re so fortunate to live in Jacksonville with this gorgeous river running through the heart of our community, we have to remember we’re downstream. We’re downstream from a lot of communities — there’s 18 counties that actually drain into the St. Johns River watershed.”
The river is only as good as its tributaries and wetlands, she said.
Earlier in the week came the lower St. Johns River report, an annual effort over the last 15 years, which is funded by the city of Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board to inform the public about the health of the lower St. Johns River basin and provide independent assessments.
“As in the previous year, one of the important conclusions is that for the most part, the main stem of the river — what we call the main part of the river — is reasonably healthy in terms of water quality, making the river suitable for boating, fishing and other forms of recreation,” said Charles Closmann, an associate professor specializing in environmental history at the University of North Florida.
Closmann spoke at a rollout of the report this week produced by WJCT.
Recreation is only one part of the picture, though.
“While water quality in the main part of the St. Johns River is generally suitable for boating, fishing and other forms of recreation,” Rinaman said, “sadly, the river is not OK and there is much more to be done to protect and restore the St. Johns River and its tributaries.”
There is specific progress on nitrogen pollution in the river over the past few years, she noted. Undermining gains made from nitrogen reduction are increasing phosphorous, loss of wetlands and eelgrass, saltwater intrusion, and continuing toxic blue-green algae blooms.
Some species that were of concern in the past — like wood storks — are thriving in the area.
The St. Johns’ tributaries concern scientists the most.
“Some of the tributaries are quite badly polluted,” Closmann said.
Jones Creek, Little Pottsburg Creek’s freshwater segment and the upper reach of the Trout River are all impaired by E. coli.
Lead is also impairing the Trout River’s upper reach. Moncrief Creek is in particularly bad shape. Copper, iron and nutrients affect its marine segment, while iron also affects the freshwater segment.
Iron and nutrients both impair the marine segments of Pottsburg Creek, and enterococci pollute the marine segment of Dunn Creek.
As with any Florida environmental issue, development and the loss of critical habitat come into focus again as well, with wetlands losing out to urban development and agriculture, along with other factors.
Salinity is also a problem. The river doesn’t change much in elevation from the upper St. Johns to the coast, so saltwater intrusion is an increasing worry thanks to sea-level rise and decades of dredging activity. Observers noticed an increase in the past year — believing it could be having a negative effect on submerged vegetation, which impacts manatees.
Not every city has a collectively owned marina, but Fernandina Beach is one. The city’s getting money to deal with repair costs to the marina — from not this past hurricane, but Hurricane Matthew.
Money for repairs should be on the way as City Manager Dale Martin advised interested parties late this week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released dollars earmarked for the effort. The agency originally promised the dollars before recanting.
FEMA changed its mind again after the city mounted a legal challenge, resulting in the payment.
Before city officials can dole it out, however, the $300,000 must go through the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM). The money’s meant to cover interest costs incurred by the city for reconstruction loans.
“(City Comptroller Pauline) Testagrose is working with FDEM officials to secure the final release of these funds,” Martin said in an email. “The city will draw these funds as quickly as possible to begin the three-year statute of limitations for FEMA to file additional administrative actions (—) after three years, FEMA is prohibited from administrative actions to recover funds.”
The process of obtaining federal dollars for hurricane-caused marina damage is underway again for Hurricane Ian.
A bond plan to kick-start Nassau County’s land conservation, amid skyrocketing development, received support in recent days from both the Fernandina Beach City Commission and smart growth advocacy group 1000 Friends of Florida.
“Nassau County is one of the few counties in the whole state that does not have a mechanism to pay for land conservation, and Nassau County lags many of the other counties in the amount of land we’ve conserved,” Amelia Tree Conservancy founder Lyn Pannone said to City Commissioners at their latest meeting.
“But with this referendum, we can change that. It truly is, ‘Protect Nassau, now or never,’ and I thank you for supporting this resolution.”
If voters approve the bond plan on Nov. 8, it will allow Nassau County to issue general obligation bonds of up to $30 million to fund activities led by the county’s Conservation Land Acquisition and Management program.
“Those funds would be used to purchase land from willing sellers to be protected from development, or to buy development rights on working farms and forests and other lands that would remain on the tax rolls in private ownership and management,” 1000 Friends of Florida President Paul Owens said in a statement.
The group notes only 7% of county land is protected from development, as opposed to the state average of 29%.
“We urge Nassau County citizens to make a timely investment in their environment, economy and quality of life by voting ‘yes’ for bonds on their Nov. 8 ballot,” Owens said.
Nassau County decided to open its Nassau Florida Prosperity Plan to new goals and projects, made possible by millions of dollars in federal coronavirus response money.
The emphasis by county officials is on spending for the Sheriff’s Office and public safety gear.
None of those projects involve American Beach, the residents of which have struggled to collaborate with authorities to get a long-needed, comprehensive water and sewer conversion.
“I am a property owner at historic American Beach, and I’m sure this Board and county officials remember the challenges our neighborhood had in our attempts to receive (American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA) funding for one of the stipulated uses and priority uses — water and sewer infrastructure,” Pam McCorkle-Buncum said at the latest meeting of the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners.
“For many of us in this nearly 90-year-old coastal neighborhood, on the National Register of Historic Places, that remains extremely vulnerable to storm surge, the use of ARPA funding for the Prosperity Plan priority projects was a reminder of how political this process became.”
Groundbreaking for the water and sewer project occurred in late August. The community is still on the hook for some of the $12 million allocated through other funding means, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Commissioners voted to add nine projects to the Prosperity Plan: $4.5 million for the Crawford Diamond Industrial Park water plant; more than $2.28 million for public safety radio replacement; more than $1.6 million for public safety radio system upgrades; $1.25 million for the Animal Care and Control campus; $500,000 for the public safety training facility; and $150,000 for a broadband local planning team.
There’s also $2 million each for remediation of the old Sheriff’s Office administrative campus, the 4th Street property reinvention, and the Westside Regional Park amphitheater.
“A prosperity plan cannot and will not be successful until underserved communities are rescued from years of unequal treatment, and equity becomes a realistic priority for this plan,” McCorkle-Buncum said. “We asked for a fraction of the $17.2 million of ARPA funding for our water and sewer project, and we received zero.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars are on a four-game losing streak after the most recent 23-17 loss to the New York Giants.
Perhaps learning all the wrong lessons from recent Alabama football performances, the Jags shot themselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties.
“That’s where we’re at as a team right now is we’re just learning things the hard way, you know?” Head Coach Doug Pederson said. “We just have to keep hanging together and keep working. You got to keep showing them. It’s not for lack of conversation and talking to them about it and stuff like that. I still want them to play hard and aggressive and all of that.
“I don’t want to take any of that away from them at all, but you get in the heat of the battle sometimes, man; you just have to be cooler heads and just understand your role.”
The Jags are now 2-5 and find themselves third of four teams in the AFC South, behind the Tennessee Titans at 4-2 and the Indianapolis Colts at 3-3-1. The sad joke is the Houston Texans, last place in the division, have their only win over the Jaguars.
Fans are already giving up on the season on social media with the franchise deciding to deal with half their running back tandem, sending James Robinson to the New York Jets. More than one person noted the Jaguars’ two wins came on days of high Robinson carries.
That’s not an option anymore.
This weekend the Jaguars are at home (in London) to the equally hapless and 2-5 Denver Broncos. The odds opened with the Jaguars as a 2.5-point favorite, something that’s cold comfort considering their 3-point favorite status going into the Giants contest.