Jacksonville Bold for 10.11.23: Israel split

High aerial photo Jacksonville FL
The war in Israel gets some pushback from the Jacksonville City Council.

— Presidential pushback —

Tuesday night, every member of the Jacksonville City Council who could vote for a Nick Howland resolution of support for Israel in its conflict with Hamas did so.

Except for one — the Council President.

Republican Ron Salem is of Palestinian heritage, and his vote against the resolution illustrates that in Jacksonville, at least, the issue is somewhat more nuanced than it may seem on television newscasts.

Ron Salem shows how nuanced is the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Bold contacted Salem about his “no” vote Wednesday; he offered a statement reflecting that nuance.

“I mourn the death of Israeli and Palestinian people in this conflict,” the second-term Republican said.

The resolution stipulates that the Council “stands unequivocally allied with Israel as it defends itself in the war launched by the terrorist organization Hamas.”

The Times-Union’s David Bauerlein wrote about the president’s pride in his heritage earlier this year.

“His father, Bader Salem, was the first president of Jacksonville’s Ramallah American Club, a chapter of the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine,” Bauerlein notes. President Salem has also been in that role — a big deal given that the city has nearly as many Ramallah descendants as any in the country when counted per capita.

Mayor Donna Deegan, herself of Lebanese heritage, offered her statement earlier this week that also spoke to the complexity of the conflict.

“I strongly condemn the terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel during this past holy weekend for the Jewish faith. I mourn the loss of Israeli and American lives during the carnage that followed,” Deegan wrote.

“By taking women and children hostages, Hamas has engaged in unprecedented barbarism. I pray for the safe return of the Israeli and American hostages to their loved ones. I also mourn the loss of civilian Palestinian lives.”

“Despite this horrific violence, I remain hopeful that a peaceful resolution to this conflict can be found. Jacksonville stands in solidarity with our Jewish and Palestinian communities who have deep and enduring ties to the region,” Deegan added. “As Mayor, I remain committed to the safety and well-being of all our citizens.”

— Pride first —

Speaking of Deegan, she was the first Mayor to serve as Grand Marshal for the city’s Pride parade.

It’s hard (or even impossible) to have imagined predecessors Lenny Curry or Alvin Brown (much less John Peyton or John Delaney) doing the same thing. And that’s even if any of them were Mayor in 2023.

After a few up and down months to start her administration, this iconic picture of the Mayor rolling through Five Points waving to crowds of supporters and parade attendees illustrates very well that even as Deegan may miscalculate on specific issues (the Randy DeFoor General Counsel nomination, the Al Ferraro pick for Neighborhoods, and whatever the heck is going on with the stadium negotiations), her singular strength is a willingness to reach out and engage with groups of people in this city who have historically been underrepresented.

Donna Deegan shows possible opponents that facing her is an uphill battle. Image via City of Jacksonville/Melissa Ross.

Deegan’s participation in the parade strongly indicates that, whatever might happen in the next few years, she will be tough to defeat in a seemingly inevitable re-election bid in 2027.

Republicans, particularly those disempowered by Daniel Davis’ loss this spring, would like to see a candidate emerge. But the problem for the anti-Deegan forces is that you must have someone on her level. Someone with name identification and their own bully pulpit, willing to be as aggressive in opposition as Curry was in 2015 against Brown.

And even then, it might not work out.

The only public polling of Deegan’s popularity thus far shows very few respondents oppose this Mayor. In the “Jax Speaks” survey from the UNF Public Opinion Research Lab, taken in September, Deegan enjoys a 47% approval rating against a 14% disapproval rating, with 40% undecided.

Deegan is resoundingly popular with Democrats, with 66% approval against 6% disapproval. She’s also well positioned with NPAs, with 44% approval against 12% disapproval. And with Republicans, a group that underperformed for her May opponent, she has 27% approval against 27% disapproval.

In other words? Despite the rough start with the City Council, the people of Jacksonville are with this Mayor.

Yet, despite the good polling, the Mayor’s political enemies are working to change it.

Duval GOP Chair Dean Black, a current state legislator, is objecting to Deegan’s participation in the Pride Parade — and is suggesting that “legislation” might be necessary to “prevent this from happening again.”

“We are disturbed and disgusted to see the Mayor’s participation as the Grand Marshal at an alleged “family-friendly” event where sex toys were displayed and condoms were handed out to children,” Black said Monday.

“At best, it is beneath the dignity of the office of Mayor to attend events that seek to push sex on our children. At worst, it is morally repugnant for *any* person, let alone the Mayor, to be endorsing or supporting such behavior.”

“We call on our elected representatives to take further steps to prevent this from happening again. It should not take legislation to enforce this common-sense principle: stop sexualizing our children. Further, we call on Mayor Deegan to condemn and disavow this conduct, as well as give assurances that she will not continue to use her office to embarrass our city and disrespect parents,” Black added.

Florida’s Voice reported that “condoms were thrown” at children at the event, though the reporter was unsure who threw them.

The website was not exempt from consequences; its Instagram was briefly suspended due to what publisher Brendon Leslie calls “coordinated, fake reports” against it.

More interesting than the Instagram reversal on suspension is the reality that this Mayor has supporters who will go after her enemies. Alvin Brown didn’t have that. Neither did Lenny Curry, at least not in the same way.

This is a new era in Jacksonville. And until further notice, it’s Deegan’s town. The culture war landed with a thud in the 2023 campaign. Will opponents have better luck with it four years from now?

— Hilliard hookup —

A Northeast Florida town is among those in the latest round of awards from the Florida Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

Hilliard will receive $700,000 “to replace approximately 4,000 linear feet of water lines with a new six-inch PVC pipe. The project will also include the installation of new fire hydrants.”

Hilliard is ready for some infrastructure upgrades.

The money comes from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Hilliard is one of nine localities getting the funds, though it’s the only one in Northeast Florida.

“Strategic investments like these help expand economic opportunities for families and strengthen our rural communities,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“Gov. DeSantis continues to champion community revitalization and economic development initiatives in small and rural communities across the state,” said Secretary of Commerce J. Alex Kelly. “FloridaCommerce is proud to partner with the communities receiving awards today to help them offer their residents the brightest future possible.”

— Insurance addition —

Don’t look now, but Jacksonville continues strengthening its Citizens Property Insurance Board presence.

The latest addition announced by DeSantis may be the “best bet” of all.

Specifically, he’s best bet executive Jamie Shelton. Shelton, who maxed out his contributions to DeSantis’ 2024 campaign, is one of the Governor’s latest picks for the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation Board of Governors.

Jamie Shelton is a good bet for the Citizens Property Insurance Board.

“Active in his community, he is the former Chair and a current member of the Jacksonville University Board of Trustees, a Board member of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, and the finance Chair and Board member of the Jacksonville Civic Council. Shelton earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Lipscomb University and his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Memphis,” the Governor’s Office notes.

Shelton joins former Jacksonville City Council member LeAnna Cumber on the same board. House Speaker Paul Renner appointed her back in August.

— Perez push —

The Senate version of a claims bill that could help a St. Johns County woman has been referred to three committees.

Judiciary, Community Affairs, and Rules must hear Sen. Jennifer Bradley’s SB 10 first.

Bradley’s bill seeks relief for Julia Perez, a St. Johns County woman whose motorcycle was hit by a sheriff’s deputy.

Jennifer Bradley goes to bat for a St. Johns County woman.

“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, which is also being carried in the House by 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.

— Supper Time —

Looking to combine dining and community? If so, OneJax has an opportunity for just that.

Registration is ongoing through Friday for the group’s “Community Supper,” which will be held Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, from 6-8 p.m. at St. John’s Cathedral, and which will include “productive discussions about inclusion and diversity” in addition to the meal on the table.

Inclusion and diversity are on the menu at Community Suppers.

The event’s theme: “Unity in Diversity! Exploring the Common Good Together.”

“These Community Suppers are designed to encourage meaningful dialogue in our community. Space is limited and attendees must pay for their own meals,” OneJax notes.

Tickets are $20 per person, including the buffet and venue services.

— Lee remembered —

Jacksonville is still saying goodbye to E. Denise Lee, a titan of local government who was on the City Council for decades, in the state House for eight years, and who ultimately closed her career working as the Blight Initiatives director for Mayor Lenny Curry.

The Former Council Presidents club is the latest to honor her, “at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. inside Old St. Andrews Church where we will share stories and memories of joy about our great friend.”

Jacksonville continues saying goodbye to E. Denise Lee.

The open bar will include beer and wine in addition to nonalcoholic options.

“Come with your best story to share … just try to keep it to three minutes or less so everyone will have a chance to speak,” the group urges.

Whether you have a story or just want to hear about one of the most influential figures in the history of the consolidated city, Tuesday evening is your opportunity.

— Clever idea —

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is moving into the future, employing an Artificial Intelligence concept to monitor maintenance issues via Clever Devices’ cutting-edge AVM (Automatic Vehicle Monitoring) Prognostics.

The goal is to identify maintenance issues before they impact passengers.

Clever Devices helps the Jacksonville Transportation Authority move into the future.

“I am excited to announce our collaboration with Clever Devices to further the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s commitment to safety,” said JTA CEO Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. “With the integration of artificial intelligence through AVM Prognosis, we will be one step ahead of preventing maintenance concerns. This is a testament to the JTA’s dedication to providing safe and reliable mobility services.”

“We are delighted to collaborate with JTA, a forward-thinking organization committed to improving the lives of Jacksonville’s residents,” said Clever Devices Chief Customer Officer Buddy Coleman. “With AVM Prognostics and its AI-driven capabilities, we’re not just improving fleet reliability; we’re contributing to a smoother, more efficient public transportation system that benefits everyone.”

Mack attack —

Workers at Jacksonville’s Mack Trucks facility are among those who are participating in the United Auto Workers’ labor stoppage.

“I’m inspired to see UAW members at Mack Trucks holding out for a better deal and ready to stand up and walk off the job to win it,” said UAW President Shawn Fain. “The members have the final say, and it’s their solidarity and organization that will win a fair contract at Mack.”

Jacksonville’s Mack Trucks facility joins the UAW strike.

Jacksonville workers are joining their Mack Trucks in Macungie and Middletown, Pennsylvania, Hagerstown, and Baltimore, Maryland, in an action that now includes 30,000 total strikers nationwide. Per a news release, the North Florida Labor Council will join them on the picket line Friday.

The issues are myriad, according to the UAW, including “many topics [that] remain at issue, including wage increases, cost of living allowances (COLA), job security, wage progression, skilled trades, shift premium, holiday schedules, work schedules, health and safety, seniority, pension, 401(k), health care and prescription drug coverage, and overtime.”

— Jags back on track —

Before the Jaguars left for their two-game London trip, I wrote that we would know what kind of team they were once they returned.

After two wins in the United Kingdom, things are looking up.

The Jaguars followed up a miserable loss to the Houston Texans with wins over the Atlanta Falcons and Buffalo Bills. That’s the biggest positive from the trip abroad.

The Jaguars are also getting healthier, it appears. Defensive end Dawuane Smoot could return to the lineup this week as the Jaguars host the Indianapolis Colts. That could help the pass rush, which has been provided almost entirely by Josh Allen.

Jaguars find success from across the pond.

The timing of Smoot’s return is advantageous. The Colts will start former Jaguar Gardner Minshew at quarterback on Sunday in place of the injured Anthony Richardson. That should scare the Jaguars more than if the rookie were in there.

The Jaguars are awaiting word on the availability of wide receiver Zay Jones, who has been in and out of the lineup with a knee injury this season. Offensive lineman Walker Little left the game Sunday with a knee injury. His status will be updated as the week progresses.

While Richardson played reasonably well in the season opener against the Jaguars before leaving with an injury, Jacksonville’s defense will not be able to confuse Minshew in the same way they might against a rookie quarterback.

When the season began, the first six weeks should offer a chance to pile up some wins. Taking Kansas City and Buffalo aside, the Jaguars were scheduled to face a rookie quarterback three times in the first six games. Then, one of those rookies, Houston’s C.J. Stroud, beat the Jaguars. And now, Richardson won’t play this week.

It makes it more critical than ever for the Jaguars to perform well at home. So far this year, fans have not witnessed a win in Duval County with their own eyes. Both games at EverBank Stadium have been losses.

If the Jaguars can beat the Colts on Sunday (the oddsmakers have installed them as a four-point favorite at home), they would have swept the season series against one of their AFC South rivals. That’s important if the division comes down to a tiebreaker. There are a lot of “ifs” here, but if the Jaguars beat the Colts, Indianapolis would have to make up two games on the Jaguars. One in the standings to match Jacksonville and another to surpass the Jaguars to win the division. Can it be done? Yes, but it’s not likely.

With road games at New Orleans and Pittsburgh to come, Sunday’s matchup is one of the most pivotal games of the season. A Jaguars win puts them in great shape to win the division and, despite the hiccup against the Houston Texans, puts them in great shape to contend in the AFC.

Staff Reports


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