Hunger is no joke.
Through the end of the month, Northeast Florida locals can join the fight against food insecurity.
And all it takes is a jar of peanut butter and a charitable heart.
Through Oct. 31, Duval County is participating in the UF/IFAS Extension’s 2023 Peanut Butter Challenge.
“The Challenge is simple: Community members donate unopened, unexpired jars of peanut butter of any size in a friendly collection competition during the month of October to help combat hunger. Food insecurity has been linked to many negative health outcomes and has grown more widespread in the wake of COVID-19. At the end of the collection period, the jars are tallied, bragging rights are awarded to counties collecting the most peanut butter, and the jars go to local food pantries just in time for the holiday season,” notes UF/IFAS.
In 2022, 13.5 tons of the spreadable staple were collected statewide, enough for more than 400,000 peanut butter sandwiches … even if you slather it on as we do here at Jacksonville Bold.
Donations are accepted at the local Extension office on McDuff Avenue, City Hall, the central Jacksonville Public Library, or the Ed Ball Building downtown.
“The peanut butter challenge is a great way to donate for a cause and fight hunger. Many citizens in our local area are struggling with providing for their families. This act of kindness can help support those families in need. We are excited to be able to be that support and help for families in our community,” said Stephen Jennewein, UF/IFAS Extension Duval County agriculture and natural resources agent and Peanut Butter Challenge coordinator.
Chunky or creamy, organic or otherwise, it doesn’t matter. Every spoonful helps fight hunger in a state where no one should go hungry but where people we know do every day.
Give all you can, Duval.
— Scenic view —
Jacksonville’s Mayor and City Council President will welcome people to tonight’s Fourth Annual Scenic Jacksonville Great Cities Symposium.
Mayor Donna Deegan and President Ron Salem will offer opening remarks for the event at the Garden Club (1005 Riverside Avenue).
Doors open at 5:30 for a program where speakers start at 6:15, with cocktails, desserts, and conversation slated for 7:30.
Attendees will see a special guest speaker: AG Lafley, described by Scenic Jacksonville as a “former CEO of Procter & Gamble, Civic and Nonprofit Leader in Cincinnati and Sarasota.”
“Lafley is the highly respected and transformational former CEO and Chair of the global consumer goods company Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s most admired companies. While in Cincinnati, he founded and served as Board Chair of Cincinnati Center City Development, better known as 3CDC, which partnered with the City of Cincinnati for the renewal and redevelopment of Downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. He then moved to Sarasota and became the founding CEO of The Bay Park Conservancy, which is creating a 53-acre, beautifully designed and delightfully programmed signature bayfront public park. The Bay Park’s 10-acre Phase I opened in 2022. He is currently involved with early-stage businesses, private companies and nonprofit organizations.”
— Two decades down —
Not interested in speeches and cocktails tonight? There’s always a birthday celebration.
Specifically, it’s the 20th anniversary of Jacksonville’s iconic Art Walk.
“Celebrate 20 years of #ArtWalkJax with us at JWJPark THIS WEDNESDAY, October 4th! We’ve got live music featuring Myztroh & Friends! Look forward to an energetic show with an eclectic range of musical styles, powerful vocals, and uplifting melodies,” reads the pitch from ArtWalk itself.
The event runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at James Weldon Johnson Park, and as ever, food trucks and other entertainment will abound.
RSVPs are not required, but just in case, visit ArtWalk’s Facebook page here in case you want to make one: facebook.com/events.
— Endless Summer —
Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has the answer if you’re looking for something to do Thursday night.
The 16th Annual “Endless Summer Beach Bash,” which kicks off at 5 p.m. at the Jacksonville Beach Marriott, promises the opportunity to “build relationships in a relaxed, oceanfront setting at the Beaches Division’s premier after-hours event,” with “delicious tastings from area restaurants, a silent auction and an interactive photo booth to capture the excitement.”
Admission is $40 for Chamber members and $50 for those who are not.
Need more information? Email [email protected]
— Relief bill —
A Lake County Republican is pursuing relief for Julia Perez, a St. Johns County woman whose motorcycle was hit by a sheriff’s deputy.
“My body is broken, and I don’t have the money to take care of my body,” Perez said in an interview with Fresh Take Florida last year, as she was being evicted from her apartment.
The claims bill, from Rep. Taylor Yarkosky, seeks $15 million for her pain and suffering as compensation for more than $3.8 million in medical bills. These future medical bills could amount to $4 million more and a loss of earning capacity exceeding $280,000.
If the Legislature and the Governor sign off on the legislation, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office must pay out from otherwise unencumbered funds. Attorney fees are not to exceed 25% of the appropriation.
The bill was also filed ahead of the 2023 Legislative Session. Will 2024 be the year Perez gets relief?
— Murder was the case —
The first virtual community meeting is Monday at 6 p.m. The legislators also plan to meet with Sheriff T.K. Waters this month in a closed-door meeting and, hopefully, an open meeting to address what Nixon called a “nonexistent” relationship with the Sheriff.
For her part, Davis said the goal is to build a “stronger” relationship with the Republican chief law enforcement officer, and the goal is to “put out an olive branch” with the Sheriff’s Office.
“When death happens,” the Senator said, “it affects all of us in all of our communities.”
Davis spotlighted the issue as one of gun access that affects the entire city, aided and abetted by a Legislature that “eased access to purchasing guns this Session.”
“We see it from all socioeconomic classes, we see it from all races, we see it from all genders, and we’re trying to understand the root of the problem. It’s complete and unrestricted access to guns. We are seeing gun violence rates go up year by year and whether that’s because of mental health crisis or access to guns or whatever it is, it doesn’t matter,” Davis said.
“We’re losing members of our community; we’re losing friends, neighbors and children. And at the end of the day, this is simply unacceptable; pointing to systematic issues like poverty, racism, literacy rates and other things is not an excuse for bad behavior.”
Nixon said she wanted “intentional and strategic conversations about how we’re going to change this.”
“You know, I’m tired of talking, but … we really have to come together and throw out the political division that’s been occurring in our city for so long,” Nixon said.
The Representative said she was interested in “really making sure that we are actually working for the community and not for ourselves, our own self-interest because, again, we have babies that are dying, babies that had nothing to do with the things that are happening.”
“We want to just make sure that we are building a life where they can live and experience joy,” she added.
Homicides are not new to Jacksonville. As the Florida Times-Union noted, there were 167 in Jacksonville in 2022.
— Delegation doings —
The St. Johns County Legislative Delegation is getting ready for its October meeting in St. Augustine, and through Oct. 6, interested parties can get on the agenda to be heard by Sen. Travis Hutson, House Speaker Paul Renner, and Reps. Bobby Payne and Cyndi Stevenson.
Email [email protected] to ensure an opportunity to speak at the meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 13.
Much of the legislative wish list is already baked into the cake, including infrastructure projects benefiting the following projects in the fast-growing county.
— State Road 16: to alleviate traffic congestion and improve safety.
— County Road 2209: to complete the central segment of this critical road corridor.
— Central Public Safety Station: to provide additional emergency response capacity.
— Regional Fire Training Facility: to address the emergency responder workforce shortage.
— Porpoise Point Stabilization: to reduce persistent flooding and protect a federal navigation channel.
— South Ponte Vedra Beach: to protect property and infrastructure from further erosion.
— Genovar Park: to design and construct recreation enhancements, including a regional boat ramp.
Additionally, delegation members seek “the restoration of the Old Matanzas River Ecosystem in St. Johns and Flagler counties.”
— Displace PACE? —
By an 8-0 vote, the panel moved to declare a “public health, safety and welfare emergency” and urge the city’s General Counsel toward litigation stopping PACE and its high-interest rate and long-term loans for home improvement projects targeting people of modest means in its tracks.
Council President Ron Salem kicked off the discussion of this “horrible situation where our neighbors are being taken advantage of” and the need for “legislation to be more firm in this process,” noting 160 local “homeowners have gotten into this.”
In exchange for easy access loans that are “no money down,” already cash-strapped homeowners have sometimes experienced ballooned tax bills and elongated time frames for delivery on what they are on the hook for, sometimes for decades with liens on their properties.
“These people are being preyed on,” said Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman.
Pittman noted that “these folks are going door to door,” targeting people who “can’t afford to pay for roofs and windows,” describing the scheme as “predatory.”
“A lot of people experiencing this really don’t have the mindset to ask the questions because they don’t know what to add,” Pittman added.
Though Jacksonville has banned these programs for residential customers, PACE is still moving forward with 30-year terms with up to 10% compound interest, creating a “super lien” that takes precedence even over a mortgage loan. Up to 10 homeowners a week are signing up for these terms.
To put the scheme in perspective, as a presentation ahead of the vote noted, a $34,000 roof on a $168,000 house can add up to a lien approaching $104,000 over 30 years.
Three-quarters of the City Council must vote to that effect at next Tuesday’s meeting, two previous City Council committees of reference unanimously supported the ordinance, which has more than half the Council co-sponsoring it.
Duval County is just one of many in the state expressing opposition to this program, which PACE believes is within its rights to operate given judicial validations as recent as last year that the program has $5 billion in bonding capacity and that “despite future changes in related law, the assessments that have been placed are secure and valid.”
— Judge opening —
Attorneys seeking to become a judge have an opportunity in the 4th Judicial Circuit, but they must get their application in order.
“As a result of the retirement of Judge Don Lester, there exists a vacancy on the 4th Judicial Circuit Court Bench. Gov. Ron DeSantis has asked the 4th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission to provide him with highly qualified nominees to fill this vacancy,” notes a media release.
Lester was a Charlie Crist appointee in 2010, after a career as a prosecutor in the 4th Judicial Circuit and in private practice, where his clients included the rock bands Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special.
People interested in the opening must apply before 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023, via email to [email protected].
For more information: flgov.com.
— JTA staffs up —
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority has made three notable hires in recent days.
Raj Srinath will serve as the Authority’s new SVP — Chief Financial Officer. Kiet Dinh joins as VP — Automation & Innovation. Anthony Junco is the agency’s new Public Information Officer.
They all come to Jacksonville after having progressively more challenging roles elsewhere.
Srinath has nearly three decades of experience in the sector and was previously the Chief Financial Officer at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). Kiet previously was the Project Delivery Manager at the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, where he led what JTA calls “the engineering design of an innovative autonomous vehicle advanced mobility program.” Junco was the Public Affairs Officer at Littoral Combat Ship Squadron 2 in Jacksonville.
“I am thrilled to have Raj, Kiet and Anthony join the JTA team,” said JTA CEO Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. “All three of these individuals have proven experience in their fields and will be an invaluable addition to the Authority in each of their departments. I look forward to welcoming them to help us further advance the JTA as both a mobility provider for Northeast Florida and as one of the top employers in our region.”
— Trash Day —
Meridian Waste Florida, a non-hazardous solid waste services company, is announcing its second residential collection contract for the City of Jacksonville.
It represents the first time since consolidation that the City has granted two residential contracts to a single hauler. The combined contracts for servicing the Northside, which began two years ago, and the Westside service commencing this week provide Meridian Waste the exclusive right to collect for more than 158,000 Jacksonville residents for five services — garbage, recycling, yard waste, bulk waste, appliances, and white goods.
Across the two contracted service areas, a fleet of 72 rear-load trucks will be used for garbage and yard waste collections, 14 automated side loaders for recycling collections, and two appliance collection lift-back tailgate trucks.
Meridian hired 116 new employees to service the City’s Westside, including male and female drivers and helpers.
The company has announced six new Westside field supervisors, all but one promoted from within the ranks of existing Meridian Waste drivers.
“Customer service excellence is what sets Meridian Waste apart from the competition. You and all your team members are a vital part of the company’s outstanding service,” said Dave Shepler, area president in Florida, during the Westside collections crew’s work start on October 2. “Average service is not an option for our team, and your commitment to be the best shows in our superior performance throughout our North Florida and South Georgia collection contracts.”
To confirm new collections schedules, customers may refer to the service day change postcard mailed by Meridian Waste in September or call the City of Jacksonville at (904) 630-CITY (2489). Visit the website at MeridianWaste.com/Find-My-Schedule.
— Wine time —
Tired of being told to “put a cork in it?”
Well, this week’s event offers the opportunity to take a cork out of as many as 100 bottles of wine.
The “Uncorked Wine Festival” returns to Jacksonville on Saturday for an atypically boozy event at the normally teetotaling Museum of Science and History on the Southbank.
“There are two sessions for this event. Early admission ($80) is at 7 p.m. and includes an extra hour of tasting with a smaller crowd, plus some bonus pours from select wineries during the first hour. General admission ($65) is at 8 p.m., and the event ends at 11 p.m. Both tickets include all wine tasting with food sold separately.”
Admission is 21 and up only, and there are no refunds. Check out uncorkedwinefestivals.com for more information.
— Reinforcements —
Can one man make a difference?
On the offensive line, the Jaguars hope so.
The most glaring weakness on the team through four games has been the offensive line, but Cam Robinson can resume practicing with the team this week. Robinson, the incumbent starting left tackle, was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancers.
Robinson can be reactivated to play Sunday in London against the Buffalo Bills.
There are three big questions surrounding Robinson’s return.
First, is he fit and ready to go? Robinson played in the preseason but hasn’t collided with another player since. On Monday, Doug Pederson said Robinson was looking good.
“I know he’s in really good shape; he was in the meetings the last couple of weeks. Mentally, I think he’s in a really good spot,” Pederson said. “Now, it’s just a matter of where he’s at football. We definitely want to get him in there and get him in the mix to see how it all shakes out throughout the week.”
The next question is how the Jaguars will adjust the offensive line with Robinson’s return. In Robinson’s absence, Walker Little has played left tackle. He has been the brightest spot on the Jaguars’ line so far. Here are some options. Robinson moves back in at left tackle, and Little is pushed inside to left guard. Ben Bartch struggled in his three starts at left guard and against the Atlanta Falcons, veteran Tyler Shatley was brought in to start there. The offense didn’t show significant strides with that move, so we’ll see what the Jaguars plan.
The other option is to replace rookie right tackle Antone Harrison with Little. Little played the position but has been better on the left side than the right in his career. Harrison played through a shoulder injury and struggled against Chris Jones in the Jaguars’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. Harrison was not to blame for either of the sacks allowed by the Jaguars against the Falcons. The risk of making this move is that it could hurt Harrison’s progress as a rookie.
The final question is, how much of a difference will Robinson make in his first game back?
Facing a Bills defense that has allowed less than 14 points per game, the Jaguars will need to find a way to break out of their offensive slump. The Bills have 16 sacks in four games. Seven different Bills’ defenders have recorded at least one sack, led by Leonard Floyd with 3.5. To sweep their London trip, the Jaguars must protect Trevor Lawrence.
We’ll find out the answer to the third question on Sunday.