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Cycle of violence
Crime was the primary argument of the 2015 election cycle — specifically murder in the streets.
The issue catapulted Lenny Curry to a win over Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown, remarkable given Curry’s own team polled Brown with a 55% approval rating.
In 2019, the rhetoric was familiar, with challenger Anna Brosche running against the so-called “Curry crime wave.” Brosche didn’t have the budget to make that message stick. Nor did she have, as Curry did in 2015, the advantage of then-incumbent Sheriff John Rutherford standing by him in support.
Now that 2023 is just weeks away, if a candidate were inclined to try to elevate crime as a campaign talking point, this week offered an opportunity.
Sheriff T.K. Waters called a news conference Monday, in the wake of a drive-by shooting of a teenager; many local politicians and preachers were on hand.
While the camera caught a couple of Council members smiling and chatting before the official program began at the presser, the message was serious.
“As we prepare for the holidays, a family in our community is preparing to bury their child. A needless, senseless victim of gun violence that plagues our community,” Waters said. “While this family has suffered unimaginable loss, our entire community grieves with them. Today I stand before you with our community and faith leaders to share that this grief has not broken our community. To the contrary, this belief has emboldened us and hardened our resolve.”
“As a father, I cannot express the level of grief and anger. The unthinkable happened,” Curry added. “The senseless loss of a 13-year-old child and the permanent scars that will remain on the other children that were in the car.”
Contrary to Curry’s assertion, it, unfortunately, is quite thinkable that this happened, at least in Jacksonville. The third mayoral debate in 2015, for example, was overshadowed by two students shot on a Duval County school bus hours before that. Curry claimed his “background and skill” would address that problem.
Nearly eight years later, it’s still the same problem, just as it was in 2006 when Dreshawna Davis was killed, a conscience-shocking murder of an eight-year-old child that led to pushes for reform and renewed investment.
Now, more than 16 years later, it’s another illustration (if needed) that Jacksonville’s issues with violence are nothing new, but the solutions don’t seem to be at hand.
Tonight, I joined Sheriff T.K. Waters, State Attorney Melissa Nelson, City Council members, pastors and stakeholders from across our community to address the senseless acts of violence that occurred this weekend. pic.twitter.com/lS6qOIa9Ij
— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) December 5, 2022
Just as Jacksonville’s murder issue stays unresolved, so too is the case for its ongoing tributes to the losing side in the Civil War, with a push from Curry to move the last remaining confederate statue out of Springfield Park so far rebuffed by the City Council.
The Save Southern Heritage group flew a confederate banner over downtown Tuesday with the message “Curry: Stop the Hate.”
Meanwhile, at City Hall, media and staffers were reckoning with a window shot out in the Mayor’s suite on the fourth floor of the building.
While we understand that at least one City Council member denied the window had been shot out in talking to local media soon after the incident, Tuesday’s events underscore the toxic cocktail of sentiment the confederate monument issue has stirred up in recent years. Monuments seem to have replaced the issue of LGBTQ+ rights, finally protected by law a few years ago when the Human Rights Ordinance was expanded after years of stalled and failed efforts.
One monument was moved in 2020 in the wake of the George Floyd-inspired protest movement, but the one standing in Springfield would require a City Council appropriation to move. Thus far, Council has not budged.
The Florida Delegation teamed up on a renaming that will be noticeable in Clay County.
The “Andrew W. Baker Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic” is the new name for the Clay County Veterans Affairs Clinic. Baker was a Chief Petty Officer when he died in a 1997 training accident.
“I am grateful that President (Joe) Biden has signed my bill to honor U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Andrew Kenneth Baker’s legacy into law. The VA clinic in Clay County provides quality care to our veterans who have dedicated their lives to service, just like Chief Petty Officer Baker,” said Marco Rubio, who led the legislation in the Senate.
“Our veterans have made countless sacrifices to defend our nation. We must do everything possible to provide them with the support and care they need,” added Rick Scott. “I’m proud the President signed this bill into law and that the Veterans Affairs clinic in Clay County will pay homage to U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Andrew Kenneth Baker.”
Rep. Kat Cammack, who represents Clay, thanked the Senators for their work.
“It’s an amazing day in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. To have this bill across the finish line during my freshman term is a major accomplishment, and to do it in memory of Chief Baker and his service and sacrifice is truly an honor,” Cammack added. “I look forward to seeing the new name go up on the building in the new year, and to celebrate this project’s completion.”
Songs from the big Chair
Senate committees were finalized this week, and Northeast Florida will be represented by several Chairs in the 2023 Session.
Clay County’s Jennifer Bradley will Chair the Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice, in addition to serving as Vice Chair of the Criminal Justice committee.
Duval County’s Tracie Davis, though a Democrat in the Republican supermajority Senate, will serve as Vice Chair of the Transportation Committee. Davis is one of two newly elected Senators from Jacksonville.
St. Johns County’s Travis Hutson will helm the Fiscal Policy committee. Hutson contended for the Senate presidency this year, before abandoning that bid, but it’s clear he will be busy in the first year of the Kathleen Passidomo presidency.
The other new Senator from Jacksonville, Clay Yarborough, will Chair the Judiciary Committee, an interesting appointment given that Yarborough is not a lawyer. Senate leadership’s endorsement of Yarborough was pivotal to heading off what would have been a competitive and expensive Primary earlier this year.
The House Chairs were announced late last week; Northeast Florida will be well represented on the other side of the Fourth Floor also in the first year of the Speaker Paul Renner era.
Rep. Sam Garrison will chair the Health Care Appropriations Committee. Wyman Duggan will chair the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. Bobby Payne will chair the Infrastructure Strategies Committee. And Cyndi Stevenson will head the Water Quality Subcommittee.
Keep on keepin’ on
Duval Democrats and Republicans both went with familiar quantities in their leadership elections Monday.
A newly elected state legislator will keep his position as the Chair of the Republican Party of Duval County, while the Democrats likewise kept their Chair.
Rep. Dean Black will get another year as Chair of the Duval GOP, overcoming a challenge from Marty Barker by a 196-84 margin. Mayor Curry credited Black with “blocking and tackling” as Chair, managing the fundamentals of local party leadership that wavered under Black’s immediate predecessors.
Democrats went with the incumbent, Chair Daniel Henry, keeping continuity despite a rough Election Day in Duval matching those virtually everywhere else in the state.
In other elections, both the GOP and Dems supported continuity.
Republicans returned Vice-Chair Steve Adams to leadership with a lopsided win over challenger Reginald Blount; Secretary Betty Bentley and Treasurer Margaret Hartman were each re-elected by acclamation.
On the Democratic side, Treasurer Hanna Moore was re-elected and two new people will serve in leadership. Nekinia Wright will be the first Vice Chair. Cole Gabriel will serve as Secretary.
Proud to announce my re-election as Chairman of the @DuvalDEC! Words can express the honor it is to hold this position and I’m looking forward to the next 2-years of action serving the 262,253 registered Democrats in Jacksonville.#jaxpol #flapol #duvaldems #fladems pic.twitter.com/VdEAymE3aF
— Daniel Henry 🇺🇸🇭🇹🏳️🌈 (@DanielHenryJAX) December 6, 2022
The city of Jacksonville continues to work to boost local nonprofits, with a Thursday morning town hall planned to that end.
The COJ Nonprofit Gateway Virtual Town Hall, via the city’s Strategic Partnerships Office, starts at 11 a.m. and runs until noon.
This event is intended to “promote partnerships between local nonprofits and the City of Jacksonville and to provide key updates to stakeholders. The Town Halls also give nonprofits a platform to connect and engage with representatives of key departments.”
The town hall is free, but registration is needed. Interested parties can sign up here.
Holiday parties are beginning already, including among the 19-person City Council, which holds its Holiday Celebration Wednesday night at City Hall.
The event runs an hour this year, from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m., and will feature remarks by Council President Terrance Freeman at 6:45 in the atrium of the St. James Building.
Featured at the event will be the Next Generation Art Exhibit, via the Jacksonville Arts and Music School and Cathedral Arts Project, through the Cultural Council of Jacksonville.
To find out more information, call 904-255-5466, or email your request to [email protected].
Individual council members also have their own events.
District 8 Jacksonville City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman will lunch Friday with senior constituents from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Emmett Reed Community Center on W. 6th Street in Springfield.
Moving on up
Monday was a day of note for JAXPORT as final approvals helped a long-discussed raising of power lines over the St. Johns River. The initial million dollars arrives in the fiscal year 2023, with more than $16 million on the way in 2024, followed by $4 million in 2025 and $1.5 million in 2026.
The public transportation grant is half-funded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and half-funded by JAXPORT on a match-funding basis. Once completed, the lines will move from 175 feet above the high tide line to 225 feet.
Raising the lines at Fulton Cut, just east of Blount Island, is part of the task of supplying a port for some of the largest cargo vessels on the ocean.
“We committed to funding to raise the power lines, and today is a milestone in that process,” JAXPORT CEO Eric Green said at the Port’s latest Board meeting. “We are tremendously grateful to the state of Florida, Gov. (Ron) DeSantis and FDOT Secretary (Jared) Perdue for supporting the public service grant just approved by the Board.
“We look forward to continuing our discussions with the Mayor’s Office and the City Council as we all work together to maximize the economic opportunity a deeper harbor creates for the citizens of Jacksonville.”
The Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) is officially opening a new military lounge for active-duty service members at Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) before the start of popular travel holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s.
The Jacksonville International Airport Military Lounge is on the baggage claim level at the site of the former USO. The Authority refurbished and updated the space while North Jacksonville Rotary Club, United Way of Northeast Florida’s Mission United and the Veterans Council of Duval County helped coordinate volunteers to staff the lounge.
“With Northeast Florida’s deep ties to the military community, having a designated lounge area for servicemen and women was incredibly important to us,” JAA CEO Mark VanLoh said. “So many service members travel through our airport. We wanted them to have a space in our terminal where they could feel at home.”
For more information about the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, visit www.flyjacksonville.com.
Momentum continues toward a one-day South Atlantic derby-style recreational red snapper season — or possibly none — as the Snapper-Grouper Committee of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) voted to recommend setting 2023 catch limits equal to the set acceptable biological catch limits.
The committee voted on the second day of the Council’s December meetings at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
The acceptable biological catch number drops from 53,000 fish to 28,000. The commercial annual catch limit goes from 124,815 pounds whole weight to 77,016, in one year. The recreational annual catch limit declines from 29,656 fish to 19,119.
If implemented in time, it all but ends any chance of a recreational red snapper season in 2023, though that door is still open if the Council decides a one-day season is better than none at all.
“I recognize that this is not, probably, the preference of this Council at this point to close the fishery, but to me is very reasonable in terms of helping further address overfishing at this stage,” said Andy Strelcheck, NOAA Fisheries Regional Administrator and member of the Council.
“There’s implications, obviously, on the small amount of commercial harvest that would no longer be authorized from that action. My concern on the recreational side is, this pushes us into a one-day fishing season. The reason I asked (AP Chair) Bob (Lorenz) earlier about safety at sea is that I’ve gotten many comments about the most recent fishing season — concerns that it is a derby fishery and that there are safety at sea issues.”
The Jacksonville-area Coast Guard, he said, sent him around 10 or 11 distress calls they responded to during the last red snapper season, which isn’t the sort of “success” the Council is looking to achieve.
Bright lights, big zoo
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens gets into the festive spirit this week with more than 2 million lights, augmented with interactive art installations, music, food and the opportunity to visit Santa Claus.
An exclusive ZOOLights preview is set for Thursday, what the Zoo is calling a one-night-only VIP evening event with cocktails, dinner and entertainment, open to all ages.
Thereafter, ZOOLights opens to the public, 6-9 p.m. on Dec. 9-11, 15-18 and 22-24. More than 10 themed areas were designed with specific choreographed motifs based on holiday traditions.
“Friends or family can capture the experience in selfies with Instagram-worthy backdrops nestled throughout the Zoo,” according to a Zoo statement. “Guests will enjoy holiday traditions of musical performances and special appearances and photo ops with themed characters.
“For those looking to elevate the experience, holiday treats of hot chocolate and s’mores, culinary delights, adult beverages and one-of-a-kind souvenirs and gifts are available for purchase.”
Tickets can be bought in advance at JacksonvilleZoo.org/ZOOLights. Admission includes access to the 4D theater and unlimited rides on the Wildlife Carousel for children 12 years old and younger.
Let us not talk of last Sunday’s disappointing trip by the Jacksonville Jaguars to the cold of Detroit, and instead glance toward the party coming to Jacksonville later this month, a festive Gator Bowl between the nearly universally disliked Notre Dame Fighting Irish and one of the Cinderella stories of the 2022 college football season, South Carolina.
The No. 20 Gamecocks (8-4), historically unused to success, are coming off one of the best seasons in the history of the program. Carolina shook off inconsistent and at times poor play from earlier in the year to defeat then-No. 5 Tennessee, 63-38, and followed that up by upsetting rival and then-No. 7 Clemson, 31-30.
It’s the first time USC knocked off two Top 10 teams in the same season, a rooster feather in the cap of head coach Shane Beamer. A bowl win over a prestigious program like Notre Dame could be the beginning of a preseason hype train for the Gamecocks for the 2023 season.
The No. 19 Irish (8-4), meanwhile, tried to circle the wagons after notoriously losing their head coach to LSU before the season. New coach Marcus Freeman is already dealing with bowl game opt-outs, as quarterback Drew Pyne announced he’s entering the transfer portal.
The game kicks off at TIAA Bank Field on Dec. 30 at 3:30 p.m.