Jacksonville Bold for 7.19.23: Big Budget

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A Mayor who made history is floating a just-as-historic city budget.

Jacksonville — and its General Fund budget — are growing under new Mayor Donna Deegan.

The proposed $1.7 billion budget is the biggest in city history (almost 10% more than the final Lenny Curry budget), offering a first look at the new Mayor’s priorities.

“This budget reflects the priorities of the people. It invests their money in ways that will create more opportunities to live, earn, learn, and love with a good quality of life. It is intentional. It keeps the promises of the past and builds a city of the future. A city that works for all of us and where our children will choose to stay and raise their own families,” Deegan said.

Donna Deegan announces a historic Jacksonville budget — for the ‘priorities of the people.’

“The budget I am presenting today makes generational investments of $1.752 billion from the General Fund in addition to nearly $406 million from the Capital Improvement Plan,” Deegan said.

The CIP includes $64 million in Pay Go funds, which means the money is paid for with money on hand rather than borrowed.

It privileges “shovel-ready” projects and maintains the city’s healthy debt ratio and “strong” fiscal outlook, with more than $103 million in emergency reserves in the proposed budget.

The budget is bolstered by $1.03 billion in ad valorem taxes, a $135 million raise, a 15% bump from the previous year. That revenue surge will allow for the hiring of 235 more full-time employees across various departments.

Public safety is also addressed, with Deegan saying there is $7.8 million available for 40 uniformed officers and 18 non-uniformed positions. Also, 66 new vehicles will be added to the motor pool, along with $31 million for new fire stations and raises for both police and fire.

Literacy efforts are also a priority. Deegan noted that 70% of people in the Duval County Jail read at or below a fourth grade level, with the Kids Hope Alliance serving as a springboard for a rebooted Jacksonville Journey focusing on literacy.

The solid waste fund will also see over $8 million in new money over the current fiscal year. It is proposed to have more than $25 million in allocations in the new fiscal year.

The Mayor’s rollout of the budget, much of which was formulated by the previous administration and Council given the short time between inauguration and budget proposal, is just one step before the ultimate ratification of a spending plan by the City Council.

In August, the Finance Committee reviews the entire budget. It is a supermajority Republican committee that reflects the larger City Council’s composition and changes are inevitable. The City Council will hold two public hearings on the product from there before ratifying and potentially making further changes to the final budget, which must be in effect before the Oct. 1 beginning of the fiscal year.

Rutherford rakes

While it’s not likely that Rep. John Rutherford will face a serious challenge for re-election to his fifth term in Congress next year, he has the fundraising to repel any potential opponents.

The latest records from the Federal Elections Commission show the former Sheriff has nearly $304,000 cash on hand after raising $60,500 and spending $31,766 in Q2. Of that money, $7,250 came from individual donors, with the balance coming from political action committees.

With no credible challenger, John Rutherford fundraises to keep it that way.

Rutherford’s most serious General Election challenge was from Democrat Deegan, now Jacksonville Mayor. The odds are good that he won’t face any opponent that high profile next year.

Meanwhile, Rep. Aaron Bean is also well-positioned for his 2024 campaign. FEC records show the Fernandina Beach Republican with nearly $207,000 cash on hand as of the end of June.

Bean defeated LaShonda Holloway last year in a new district encompassing parts of Duval and Clay counties and Nassau County.

Sticker shock

Speaking of Bean, he introduced an updated bill forcing hospitals to develop transparent policies and procedures to prevent sticker shock when medical bills land in the mailbox.

Bean’s version of the Transparency in Billing Act is an updated version of legislation introduced initially by North Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee.

The bill is part of a four-pronged health care package passed by the Education and Workforce Committee with bipartisan support last week. According to Bean’s office, the package will “empower patients, reduce costs and increase transparency” in health care.

Aaron Bean is fighting for medical transparency.

“Health care is the only industry where a consumer purchases something without knowing the price or value and that needs to change,” the Fernandina Beach Republican said in a news release.

“The House Education and Workforce Committee is leading the charge to transform America’s health care system. This week we secured a health care package that speaks directly to these concerns. With the passage of these innovative bills, people across the nation will no longer have to navigate an inaccessible, unaffordable and nontransparent health care system.”

In addition to the Transparency in Billing Act, the package includes:

— The Transparency in Coverage Act, which would codify the “Transparency in Coverage” final rule, provides consumers with price transparency for medical services and prescription drugs while shining a light on pharmacy benefit managers’ business practices.

— The Health DATA Act would ensure health plan fiduciaries are not contractually restricted from receiving cost or quality of care information about their plan.

— The Hidden Fee Disclosure Act would strengthen requirements that pharmacy benefit managers and third-party administrators disclose compensation to plan fiduciaries.

Curry to lobby

Former Jacksonville Mayor Curry is joining Ballard Partners as a partner in its Washington, Tallahassee and Jacksonville offices.

“Lenny’s exemplary stature as a leader in our state and nation is rare and we are especially honored to have him join our firm,” said Brian Ballard, the firm’s President and founder. “Given his extraordinary relationships and experiences, Lenny will be an invaluable advocate for the firm’s clients in Washington, Tallahassee and Jacksonville.”

Winning his first campaign in 2015 and re-election campaign in 2019, Curry served as Mayor of the City of Jacksonville from 2015 to 2023. Before serving as Mayor, Curry was elected Chair and Vice-Chair of the Republican Party of Florida.

Lenny Curry jumps on Team Ballard.

He also previously served as a Jacksonville Housing Commission Board member, a Commissioner of the Florida State Boxing Commission, a Junior Achievement Board member and a Jacksonville Symphony Association Board member.

“I am delighted to be joining Brian and the outstanding team at Ballard Partners, and I am looking forward to contributing to the firm’s continued growth and success across the country,” said Curry.

Those in Curry’s political orbit have suggested he has another run for office in him, but that’s not in the short-term plans for the Mayor.

Curry’s just the latest Jacksonville addition. Jenny Busby, the former head of government affairs for transportation policy at Siemens who also worked for former Rep. Al Lawson and former City Council member Tommy Hazouri, also joined this summer.

Former Curry Chief of Staff Jordan Elsbury also joined last year; he leads the Jacksonville office.

Strategos pick

Former Clay County School Superintendent Addison Davis is in the mix for Duval County School Superintendent, especially after leaving the Hillsborough County position he held up until recently. But until/unless that becomes official, the well-traveled education professional will be lobbying with Strategos Group, a leading national education management consulting firm.

“Addison’s commitment to students, teachers, and the American education system accelerates our mission of helping students thrive in their living and learning. Addison’s arrival fulfills a goal to be the Nation’s only management consultancy with a partnership comprised of every major role in the American education ecosystem,” Strategos Group Managing Partner Adam Giery said.

Strategos Group comes in with a blockbuster hire — Addison Davis.

Davis will work in the firm’s Business Transactional Advisory (BTA) practice, supporting district partners and education organizations to advance student objectives.

“The war to positively impact student performance and outcomes is an instrumental part of who I am as a practitioner,” Davis said of his new role. “Over the last 25 years, I have dedicated my time, efforts, and energy to driving the most ambitious educational strategies that have led to transformational results for students both inside and outside the classroom.”

Added Jim Horne, Strategos Partner and former Florida Commissioner of Education: “I could not be more excited to see Addison join our team. His accomplishments as a superintendent of one of the largest school systems in the country have been amazing. He is a bold, creative and innovative leader who always focuses on student success. He has that ‘it factor’ and pairs it with a can-do attitude, leading by example. Addison is a natural thought leader, and when he speaks, he puts thoughts into action. He will be an integral part of the Strategos family and will help shape the future of education.”

Let’s go Brandon

A former candidate for the state House is one of a few locals selected for Judicial Nominating Commissions by DeSantis.

Adam Brandon, an attorney at Rogers Towers, P.A., was reappointed last week to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission. Brandon would run in 2022 but redistricting ultimately drove him to reconsider. His new term will run until 2027.

Adam Brandon gets another term on the 5th Circuit Court.

DeSantis also tapped two locals to the 4th Judicial Circuit’s JNC.

Patrick Joyce, an attorney at Milam Howard Nicandri & Gillam, P.A., was reappointed. He will serve until 2027.

Alan Mizrahi, an Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit, is appointed for a term ending July 1, 2026.

Baker Board

DeSantis selected five new names for the Baker County Hospital Board, including one former Middle School Teacher of the Year.

John Milton (no, not the author of “Paradise Lost”) made the cut. In addition to teaching, Milton, who is also a Board Member of the Baker Historical Society, got his bachelor’s from the University of Florida and his master’s from the American College of Education.

No, not that John Milton.

Three men with ties to the city of MacClenny are also on the Board.

Claude Walker, a former Building and Zoning supervisor for the city, is in. So are current Assistant City Manager Roger Yarborough and retired dentist George Weeks.

Vincent “Todd” Ferreira rounds out the new Fab Five. This isn’t his first board selection; he also is on the Board of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services.

Provost pick

Jacksonville University has moved a Vice Provost to the Interim Provost position.

Dr. Sherri Jackson will take over the role in what JU calls an example of “commitment to effective faculty leadership and seamless support during a time of momentum and growth.”

“Since joining Jacksonville University 35 years ago to teach psychology, Dr. Jackson has proven herself a talented, experienced educator; a proven mentor to students and employees; a creative problem-solver; and an ardent champion for our faculty,” said Jacksonville University President Tim Cost. “She is an accomplished author and researcher, as well as a decorated professor who has been named JU Professor of the Year and JU Woman of the Year, in addition to receiving myriad other awards and honors.”

Sherri Jackson can drop the ‘vice’ to become ‘interim provost.’ Image via Jacksonville Daily Record.

“Working with academic and senior leadership teams and the faculty to continue to increase the academic experience at Jacksonville University is the appeal of this job,” said Jackson. “I will support what we have created and strategically assess new opportunities for programming that will benefit our students and elevate the institution. I am excited to forward our mission.”

Jackson has served in progressively more challenging positions since joining JU and has spearheaded several innovations, including the institution of a Winter Academic Term.

Starting during the pandemic, the scheduling is now part of the regular calendar.

Driver Error

Buckle up when you hit the roads in Jacksonville. And maybe say a prayer as well.

That’s one takeaway from Quote Wizard’s latest survey of “which cities have the best and worst drivers in America.”

Dirty Duval is near the top of the dubious list, with the 4th most citations per capita of drivers in any city. That number will surprise those who believe the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office isn’t enforcing all the traffic issues it could.

Duval drivers are listed among the worst in the country.

The “lead foot” factor is also in play in Jacksonville, with the 17th most speeding tickets of any city in the index, putting it in the top third for cities where drivers go for top speeds, no matter what.

Accidents? Jacksonville has them, ranking 21st on the list.

If there is any saving grace, Jacksonville drivers have just an average risk of getting popped for drunken driving, ranking 33rd on the DUI chart.

Overall? It’s an argument to keep your auto insurance paid up. Duval drivers need it.

Bad investment

There’s a really good question that many taxpayers in cities with sports stadiums have long sought to answer: “Should sports teams get taxpayer dollars for stadium projects?” A study conducted earlier this year called “The Economics of Stadium Subsidies: A Policy Retrospective,” written by economists from three universities, provided a possible answer, concluding that “sports stadiums have little to no tangible economic impacts on host communities, and thus typical public subsidies tend to exceed any meager economic benefits they may provide.”

Despite the collective agreement among center-right and center-left economists that sports stadiums are poor investments, elected officials will still choose to subsidize their construction. We urge Jacksonville representatives to drop back and punt on plans to spend up to $1 billion to subsidize stadium renovations for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jacksonville’s new stadium may be too much of a cost to bear.

If someone handed me $1 billion, there’s an endless stream of things I could think to spend it on — and I probably still wouldn’t be able to use it all. A billion dollars is a massive amount of money, and the city’s NFL team is asking for it as a handout to upgrade its stadium.

One of those “upgrades” would be to reduce the number of seats at TIAA Bank Field — meaning fewer people would have the opportunity to enjoy seeing their favorite team play live. It’s realistic to assume that ticket prices would increase to make up the revenue difference, pushing most taxpayers even further from being able to afford a ticket.

On top of the poor quality of Jacksonville’s roadways, the city is also battling high crime rates and the closure of many community pools due to a lack of maintenance and upkeep. During summertime in Florida, local pools are a top spot for families and community members to gather on a hot day. These are all things that could benefit from taxpayer dollars, far more than upgrades to an already substantial sports stadium.

It’s also important to note that the City of Jacksonville is still working to pay off the previous round of stadium renovations, yet now they want to throw that money down the drain by tearing it down. Who’s to say that the cycle won’t repeat itself, and they won’t tear down the new renovations as well?

From a team that until recently handed its fans far more losses than victories, a request for tax dollars to fund stadium enhancements seems as lopsided as the Jags’ 3-14 record just two seasons ago.

This is especially egregious when there’s an endless number of costly infrastructure projects that should take precedence when deciding where taxpayer dollars should be spent. Imagine how much the public would benefit from $1 billion dedicated to fixing crumbling bridges and roadways, enabling a much higher percentage of citizens to see their money put toward something they may actually use and benefit from.

I’m a Jaguars fan and live in North Florida, but these subsidies are not the answer to this request for 1 billion dollars. It should be up to the funders of the football team and not the taxpayers.

I urge the Jacksonville City Council and Mayor Deegan to support taxpayers and oppose this subsidy.


Via Skylar Zander, the Americans for Prosperity-Florida State Director.

Pretty wild process

When the Jacksonville Jaguars signed tight end Evan Engram to a three-year deal last weekend, it answered a significant question for the team: would one of their most productive offensive players be playing with questions about his future?

Now, getting Engram signed up, who was set to play on the one-year franchise tender, locked in beyond this season means there will be no lingering questions about how Engram fits in with the Jaguars’ plans.

Engram told Jaguars.com the whole process was “pretty wild.” But it got done.

Evan Engram’s three-year contract happened after a ‘pretty wild’ process. Image via AP.

Engram showed last year that he could be a game-changer for Trevor Lawrence. He also showed that he fit in with the Jaguars’ locker room. He and wide receiver Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, all free agent additions in 2022, developed a strong bond off the field.

While the Jaguars have some concerns, including beginning the season without starting left tackle Cam Robinson, who was suspended by the league for the first four games for violating the league’s rule on performance enhancers, the team is still well-positioned to win the AFC South for the second straight season.

Lawrence could be on track to have a breakout season. His second-half performance last year portends well for the Jaguars.

If the defense can answer some key questions, particularly the pass rush, it could be a memorable season in Jacksonville. And Engram signing could help on that front as well. The Jaguars added salary cap room for this season with the long-term contract with Engram, so the team could go after a veteran pass rusher with a one- or two-year deal. There are some options in the 30-and-over set: Robert Quinn, Jadeveon Clowney, Melvin Ingram, Justin Houston and Carlos Dunlap were all unsigned as of this week. So is Dawuane Smoot, the longtime Jaguar coming off an Achilles injury.

One of the critical early signs to watch for in the Jaguars’ preseason is how advanced the offense and defense appear as the two units work in consistent schemes for the second consecutive season under the same coordinators.

Remember, Lawrence hasn’t worked in the same system in back-to-back years since his college days at Clemson. Now he’ll have greater command of the scheme and head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Press Taylor will know how to better play to Lawrence’s strength.

The arrow is pointed up on the Jaguars, especially on offense.

Staff Reports


  • Earl Pitts"Dont Whizz Off Earl" American

    July 19, 2023 at 3:41 pm

    OK Duvall,
    Y’all €ffed up big time with Deegan, there is absloutly nothing I, Earl Pitts American, can do, or more importantly will do, to help you at this time.
    You drove your political future “car” over the cliff. Your future is looking really €ffed up.
    I, Earl Pitts American, busted my 8utt for free to try and talk you idiots down off the cliff. But y’all are to blaim and y’all are going to suffer for around 8 years minimum.
    Fools one and all. Like Mr. T. – I, Earl Pitts American pitty the fools who wont accept the help of someone who just had your best interests as my motivation, my, Earl Pitts American’s, help was offered free of charge.
    As far as I, Earl Pitts American, am concerned y’all can just eat poop and love it for the next 8 years.
    Duvall is dead to me, Earl Pitts American, for the next 8 years. Call me in 2032 is y’all want to – but y’all better have some “up front” money for my services. But “till 2032 “Dueces on Duvall” Elections have consiquences fools.

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Comments are closed.


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