Jacksonville Bold for 9.20.23: Jailhouse Rock
Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline at dusk.

Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline
Will the Duval jail facility be an issue in the 2027 mayoral race?

One of the biggest surprises from the latest University of North Florida poll: People are ready and willing to spend to move the jail out of downtown.

“A majority (52%) said they would support building a new jail, with 27% strongly supporting and 26% somewhat supporting; 40% expressed opposition, with 13% somewhat opposing and 27% strongly; and 8% said they didn’t know or refused to answer,” read the memo from the Public Opinion Research Lab.

“The relatively high support for moving the jail and JSO offices away from downtown given the large estimated $380 million price tag is rather surprising,” noted pollster Michael Binder.

Moving the Duval jail out of downtown Jacksonville is a winner with voters.

The issue is above water with Republicans, Democrats and NPA voters, as well as men and women. It has nearly 60% support among White and Hispanic voters and more than 50% support with all age cohorts over 25.

Black voters, meanwhile, are the only group that sees more support for the status quo than moving the jail and building a new facility: 42% support moving the jail, while 47% oppose the proposal.

The issue is not an immediate priority for Mayor Donna Deegan, but it is a priority for Council President Ron Salem. Those with longer historical memories than this year will recall that it was brought up when Mike Williams was Sheriff.

The jail certainly isn’t the most compelling piece of local infrastructure, but comparing how that facility has fared to the Duval County Court House is interesting. That was replaced earlier this century, a grand marble tower that cost $350 million in 2008 dollars.

Will the jail facility be an issue in the 2027 mayoral race? If so, it could present a problem for the incumbent. Her next budget needs to include concrete steps toward resolving this issue.

— Poll position —

One interesting takeaway from this week’s polling from the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab: The Sheriff seems more popular than the Mayor.

But those close to the political operation of Sheriff T.K. Waters say there’s “zero chance” he runs for Mayor in 2027, even though indications are he’s more popular than Deegan, who the jury is still out on.

Polling shows T.K. Waters is more popular than Donna Deegan. Will that translate to a run for office?

Waters, a Republican endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis for the special election last year, unsurprisingly enjoys the backing of 76% of Republicans. But he’s not doing much worse with independent voters, of whom 60% approve of him. And most Democrats (56% of those polled) also back him.

Deegan isn’t bad off either, it should be said; a 47% approval rating against a 14% disapproval rating, 36% of respondents don’t know how they feel about Deegan’s job performance and 4% refused to answer.

Despite Deegan winning by roughly 4% in May, some believe the problem wasn’t Daniel Davis. Instead, they blame LeAnna Cumber for not being a “team player” and spending “$4 million to burn down the front-runner,” saying that Davis lost only because of Cumber’s efforts before the March election.

Waters didn’t face opposition this year and spent a lot of 2023 attempting to boost Daniel Davis into the Mayor’s Office, a strategy that ultimately failed but which showed that the GOP believed his political capital was of singular importance. It’s hard to imagine a better GOP candidate for 2027, but it appears the GOP will not take its best shot at making Deegan a one-term Mayor.

— ‘Some people’ —

DeSantis called an official presser Monday in between three Jacksonville-area fundraisers, and he was compelled to address last month’s racist killings yet again.

“I do think you just have some people that any time something happens, if they can advance their political agenda, then that’s what they look to do and that’s just wrong,” DeSantis said.

Ron DeSantis fields questions about the Dollar General shooting — again.

He didn’t specify who “some people” are in this case, nor later in his remarks when he urged people “not to try to use their remarks in the face of tragedy.” But his comments ensured that a news cycle that began on an August weekend when three Black people were gunned down by a White killer from Clay County with swastikas on his rifle would continue.

The Governor also addressed reports of President Joe Biden’s conversation with Sheriff T.K. Waters, whom DeSantis endorsed in 2022.

Per The Messenger, Biden told Waters, “White supremacy is our biggest terrorist threat,” a framing Waters rejected given his belief that “more problems in inner city, urban America than the threat of White supremacy.” Meanwhile, the President called the killing a “terrorist act” in Live Oak this month, suggesting that the phrasing likely was no surprise to Waters.

“I think T.K. said it very well and I appreciated his comments on that and, you know, when things like this happen, we should be rallying together, and we should all be unified to say this is wrong, this is evil, and it doesn’t matter your party, it doesn’t matter any of the nonsense. We’ve got to all come together and get on the same page, and I think this community, by and large, did that,” DeSantis said.

The Governor’s latest comments come after his previous Jacksonville news conference was upstaged by an audience member, a Black military veteran who was not a reporter, who confronted him over advocating laws and policies that “allowed people to hunt people like me in broad daylight.”

— Ka-ching —

The Governor didn’t just talk and collect checks in Northeast Florida this week.

He gave back as well.

Via the Job Growth Grant Fund, DeSantis dropped $3.5625 million for “targeted infrastructure improvements.” The spend is expected to facilitate 170 high-wage jobs, meaning the state incentive spend is just under $21,000.

“Florida’s freedom-first and business-empowering policies draw manufacturers from across the globe to our state,” DeSantis said. “Today’s infrastructure award will connect the Clay County community with high-wage jobs, bolster Florida’s manufacturing industry, and strengthen the nation’s No. 1 economy.”

The Governor then gave out $1,000 bonus checks to Jacksonville First Responders in the afternoon.

DeSantis hands out the big checks to first responders.

“While other states are busy defunding their police, hiring noncitizens and kneecapping their local economies, in Florida, we choose to reward our first responders for their service,” DeSantis said. “First responders put others above themselves in the face of danger, as many of them did in our response to Hurricane Idalia and Hurricane Ian before that, and we are grateful for their service.”

Permit push —

While the jail issue hangs in suspense, another temporary housing structure downtown is moving a bit more quickly.

The Jacksonville Daily Record reports that the city is reviewing building permits for the planned Four Seasons near the Jaguars’ stadium.

Sitework is already underway, with the foundation review completed in June.

The Four Seasons is progressing; permits pending.

Expect a 10-story hotel and a six-story office building on the old Shipyards property when all this is done, in news that would shock the former dockworkers of that bygone historical era in Jacksonville.

The city is on the hook for nearly $130 million of incentives for the $387 million project, slated to be completed in 2026.

— Great value —

Meanwhile, even as the luxury hotel near the stadium moves ever closer to reality, there is some good news for the more bargain-conscious in Jacksonville.

A new report from New Home Source tags Jacksonville as one of Florida’s 10 most affordable cities.

If you are here, life is a bit more affordable.

Jacksonville is a city that has something everyone can enjoy. From surfing and snorkeling to shopping and eating, the locals in Jacksonville always find something fun to do. Friendship Fountain, Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, and Amelia Island are a few favorite spots among locals. It’s clear to see that Jacksonville is not only one of the cheapest places to live in Florida, but it’s a great city to build a new home,” reads the write-up.

Locally, the home price-to-income ratio is reasonable (somewhat), at 3.17/1, with an average property tax of $1,628 (your millage mileage may vary, of course).

— Baghdad blues —

A man who had a well-publicized argument with DeSantis at a Jacksonville news conference is speaking out and likening it to the treatment he experienced when serving with the U.S. military in Iraq.

“Very hurt because they went from celebrating me as a veteran to hating me passionately, and I haven’t felt like that since I was in Iraq driving through the streets of Baghdad,” Timothy Robinson said at Saturday’s “Take Back the Mic” rally.

Robinson confronted DeSantis at the event in the wake of a racist killing in New Town, in which a White man with swastikas on his rifle shot three Black people in a Dollar General before taking his own life. He blamed DeSantis and Florida laws for empowering the killer.

Activists rally to “Take Back the Mic.” Image via Facebook.

“You have allowed people to hunt people like me in broad daylight,” Robinson said.

“Well, listen, excuse me, I’m not going to let you accuse me of committing criminal activity. I am not going to take that,” DeSantis said before suggesting that the killer should not have had a gun because of mental issues.

Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo defended the Governor as a “good person.” He called it “terrible that people take advantage of the fact that he’s a different color from the poor victims of that tragedy to try and tie him into something.”

“It’s immoral and, unfortunately, it’s reflective of what we’ve been seeing for, you know, for many years, but certainly during the pandemic where people hide reality, and they spin it and they try and make you buy what they’re trying to sell you. And it’s not true. It’s a total lie, and they try and take advantage of the Governor just because he’s not the same color as these people,” Ladapo said.

— Artsy —

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez is honoring students around the state for participation in the 2023 Florida Space Art Contest — and Northeast Florida scholars are in the mix.

Students in grades K-5 were encouraged to create an art piece inspired by the theme Time Travel to 2123: Florida’s Future as the Space Capital. Among the winners in this region: Vivian Shafer, a first grade student at Palmer Catholic Academy in St. Johns County.

Another Palmer Catholic student won the Romero Britto Award, given to “the student who has captured the colorful spirit of Mr. Britto’s work: fifth grader Chloe Barry.

Chloe Barry’s prizewinning space art.

The LG noted that during “the last two years, we received over 4,000 entries from some of Florida’s most talented young artists and visionaries. Their passion for space and art is evident in their truly unique and creative submissions.” A total of 1,500 of those entries were in the last year.

The Governor’s Office notes that Barry and the other finalists will receive two tickets to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. They will also get to participate in a future project with Britto.

— Senior support —

World Alzheimer’s Day is Thursday and ahead of that, The Arc rolled out its new program, Specialized Aging Support (SAS) — Dementia Services for People with Intellectual and Developmental Differences (IDD).

SAS is a three-year pilot program designed to help people with the disease and their caretakers navigate the challenges of the disease.

The Arc rolls out the new Specialized Aging Support — Dementia Services for People with Intellectual and Developmental Differences.

“My family and I can personally attest to the importance and necessity of the resources that the Specialized Aging Support program will provide,” said Buck Smoak, Member of The Arc Jacksonville’s Board of Directors. “My sister Kimberly Smoak, who had Down syndrome and early onset Alzheimer’s disease-related dementia, grew up during a time when doctors advised parents to institutionalize their children with IDD. Our family took a different path, despite few community resources at the time and supported her in achieving an independent life — and Kimberly did just that.”

The Arc facility that deals with this disease is named after Kimberly Smoak.

“We are eager to launch this program and expand our services to further support individuals living with IDD, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, in addition to their families and caregivers who dedicate so much time and compassion to their loved ones,” said Kari Bates, President & CEO of The Arc Jacksonville. “Thank you to the many individuals whose generous support (has) helped to make this possible. We are honored to be partnering with you all in celebrating this monumental milestone for our community and cannot wait to witness firsthand the benefits of which Specialized Aging Support will provide to those who need it.”

If you or a loved one would benefit from these resources, email [email protected], call 904-779-3135 or visit arc jacksonville.org/sas.

— Working breakfast —

On Friday, the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce is hosting an Economic Development Breakfast to discuss the challenges of attracting, housing and sustaining a local workforce.

The event features a presentation of research from Dr. Jerry Parrish, Chief Economist from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and consultant Mark Nighbor, Revenue Architect from One Mark Consulting, which focuses on the scope and scale of the county’s workforce housing issues.

Dr. Jerry Parrish offers suggestions to the St. Johns Chamber on how to attract and maintain a local workforce.

Presenters will also offer suggestions for policy direction to help address this growing issue. The presenters explore the economic impact and benefits of providing attainable housing in St. Johns County.

The event is Friday, Sept. 22, at 8:30 a.m. World Golf Village Renaissance St. Augustine, 500 Legacy Trail, St. Augustine. For more information, contact Jamie Johnson at [email protected].

— Monumental —

Jacksonville has been divided on Confederate monument removal, but are the times finally changing?

New University of North Florida polling suggests that’s indeed the case.

When asked about the city removing all Confederate monuments from public spaces, 50% of respondents said they backed removal, 42% said they opposed removal, and 8% wouldn’t say either way.

The tide is turning against Confederate monuments.

“In previous surveys, we’ve seen a much more even split on the issue of Confederate monuments, but support for removal seems to be increasing,” pollster Michael Binder commented. “As you’d expect, this is largely split along party lines with 77% of Democrats in support and 73% of Republicans opposed.”

Beyond the predictable story of the party split itself, the issue seems to inspire more passion among Democrats opposed to the monuments remaining than with the Republicans who want the monuments to stay up. A full 67% of Democrats strongly support monument removal, with a relatively modest 58% of Republicans strongly supporting keeping the status quo up.

The primary point of contention: A monument in Springfield Park that honors the Women of the Confederacy. The Curry and Deegan administrations have tried, and failed thus far, to get that edifice out of the park and off public space.

— Cuppa Jax —

University of North Florida President Dr. Moez Limayem will be the featured speaker at the next Cuppa Jax on Wednesday, Sept. 27.

Limayem is UNF’s seventh president, serving since August 2022.

Limayem has increased academic engagement and campus activities at UNF to elevate the student experience and boost retention. He understands UNF’s significant role as the region’s top talent provider. He works closely with business and community leaders to address the needs of Northeast Florida and beyond.

Moez Limayem talks about meeting the needs of NE Florida at the next Cuppa Jax.

Before joining UNF, Limayem spent a decade as the Lynn Pippenger Dean of the Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida.

As dean, the college enjoyed strong job placement rates, and the freshman retention rate rose to 95%. Limayem raised more than $126 million in private donations, and led efforts related to career preparation and placement, internships and talent development.

Earlier in his career, Limayem was the associate dean for research and graduate programs at the University of Arkansas Sam M. Walton College of Business.

He was named among the Power 100: Tampa Bay’s Most Influential Business Leaders of 2022 by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. In January, Limayem was highlighted in the Jacksonville Daily Record as a Top Newsmaker of 2022.

Cuppa Jax starts at 8 a.m., Skyline Room, Riverplace Tower, 1301 Riverplace Boulevard, Jacksonville.

Tickets are $15, with breakfast provided by Village Bread Cafe.

— Stadium games —

While the negotiating continues between the Deegan administration and the Jacksonville Jaguars, locals seem to have reconciled themselves to spending big to keep the team … even if that’s not their first preference, according to polling from the University of North Florida released Monday.

The polling numbers could boost the Mayor, who has clarified that she wants to keep the team here.

Locals are resigned to picking up the tab for a new Jacksonville stadium.

“Respondents were asked to choose which outcome they support the most from a list of different options, ranging from no public investment to spending $1 billion of public funds. Unsurprisingly, 51% chose the Jaguars purchasing the land and paying for stadium renovations and sports district development with no public investment, with just 6% supporting the $1 billion public investment currently being proposed by the Jaguars,” the polling memo notes.

That said, the threat of the team leaving changes minds.

“However, when asked whether they would support the city spending $1 billion if it meant the difference between the Jaguars staying in Jacksonville or moving to another city, 46% said yes, and 47% said no. Even among those who oppose spending any public funds on the project, 33% were willing to split the cost when faced with the possibility of losing the team to another city. Of those who initially said they’d support only $250 million in public funds, 57% conceded to the higher cost when given this choice, and 72% of those who initially said $500 million changed their answer in support of a $1 billion investment.”

— Path forward —

The Jaguars’ loss to Kansas City on Sunday has split the team’s path this season.

A win over the defending Super Bowl champions would have set the Jaguars atop the AFC playoff chase with a win over another of the top contenders — a key for playoff tiebreakers.

Instead, the Jaguars are 1-1 and looking up at two unbeaten AFC teams, the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins, considered to be playoff contenders when the season began.

An early loss splits the Jaguars’ season.

So, where do the Jaguars go from here?

The schedule maker has been kind. Jacksonville hosts the winless Houston Texans on Sunday at EverBank Stadium. Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud will make his third professional start. Twenty-seven points have outscored the Texans in their first two games. It seems like a good recipe for the Jaguars to bounce back.

But there is work to be done.

Early in an NFL season, catching up with one performance is easy. With such a small sample size, it is difficult to identify trends. NFL coaches like to use at least the past three games to scout an opponent. That’s when trends become apparent.

In the Jaguars first two games, the only trends that have begun to emerge are the better-than-expected play of the Jaguars defense and subpar offensive line play, hampered by injuries to center Luke Fortner and right guard Brandon Scherff, plus the suspension of left tackle Cam Robinson (although his replacement, Walker Little has played well).

Against the Chiefs, the Jaguars didn’t make plays that could have changed the game. Doug Pederson called it a lack of execution, something he’s not seeing in the team’s preparation.

“The guys are doing it in practice,” Pederson said Sunday after the Jaguars’ loss. “We just got to make sure it’s carrying over to the game. And as coaches, we’ve got to make sure we’re doing the right things and not doing too much. Just putting our guys in positions and letting them go play. And then, as players, we just got to execute the plays and execute what we see. We just — again, it’s something that, you know, we all have to be accountable for, myself included, and make sure that we get it corrected.”

Translation? The Jaguars aren’t playing well enough, and it’s up to the coaches to create an environment where they can play better.

After Sunday’s game against the Texans, the Jaguars will travel to England for games against the Atlanta Falcons and another of the AFC contenders, the Buffalo Bills. By then, the trends will be apparent, and what path the Jaguars must travel to make the playoffs will become clear.

Staff Reports


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