Jacksonville Bold for 10.18.23: Resilient city
Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline at dusk.

Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline
Jacksonville takes another shot at resiliency.

Resiliency issues have been slow for Jacksonville, but Mayor Donna Deegan says a change is coming.

“Our new resilience-first mindset is going to take all of us. It will be a whole-of-government effort. It will now be the foundation of everything we do as a city,” Deegan said as her administration rolled out Resilient Jacksonville, the City’s 50-year resilience strategy, at the 2023 JEPB-UNF Environmental Symposium.

“This visionary strategy is our road map for addressing flood and heat risks while ensuring our citizens remain healthy and safe with access to more opportunities. As Jacksonville grows, we must ensure our infrastructure and systems are strong enough and adaptable enough to confront the challenges ahead. Our goal is to be a thriving and resilient city for the next 50 years and become a national leader in the process,” Deegan added.

“This strategy closely examines the risks facing Jacksonville today and in the future to ensure that our city systems are strong and adaptable enough to confront whatever challenges come our way. By allowing data and science to guide this planning process, we have been able to develop actions that meaningfully address our risks in objective, equitable and efficient ways. A great deal of care was taken to ensure every corner of Jacksonville was studied and that the resilience actions proposed in this document are tailored to the many geographies, communities, and ecosystems that make up Jacksonville,” added Chief Resiliency Officer Anne Coglianese.

Though Jacksonville’s resiliency issues have been spotlighted by dramatic events — such as Hurricane Irma’s epic flooding Downtown and near the St. Johns River — the strategy recognizes the city’s development has been and likely will continue to be driven by the development of previously fallow land. More than 85% of growth this century has been in land that was rural before development and as many as 685,000 new residents are expected to impact “people, property and ecosystems” in the next 50 years.

“Jacksonville’s vision for resilience looks toward the future and embraces change. Even as the city faces new, increasing and uncertain risks, we believe Jacksonville’s best days are ahead,” the report asserts. “The challenges Jacksonville faces from climate change will grow over time, but Jacksonville is constantly evolving and poised to adapt to meet these and other future challenges.”

— Rutherford rakes —

Rep. John Rutherford may or may not face serious competition in his race for a fifth term in the 4th Congressional District, but his fundraising remains strong.

John Rutherford may face a Primary after voting against Jim Jordan.

In Q3 of this year, Rutherford raised nearly $125,000 and had almost $390,000 banked as of September.

Of the new money, $27,225 came from individuals, $65,000 from political committees and $32,392 from other authorized committees.

Rutherford was first elected in 2016 after a crowded and expensive Primary, but there has been little drama since.

There may be drama next year, after all.

Perennial candidate Gary Koniz filed, this time as a Republican, to oppose him. Koniz has run as an independent before, however.

— Primary colors? —

The Sheriff was as good as his word and did not vote for Rep. Jim Jordan on the first ballot for Speaker Tuesday.

But do leadership elections have consequences? TBD.

Some suggest the Congressman should be primaried.

And there is an indication that he might have an opponent.

Duval County School Board member April Carney tells Florida Politics that a “major bundler” has contacted her to gauge her interest in primarying the 71-year-old former Jacksonville Sheriff.

After Rutherford’s vote, Carney spoke out on the “X” social media platform, demanding his rationale.

“I’m trying really hard to understand why my Republican Congressman would put control of the House in serious jeopardy. Your constituents would like an explanation,” she posted at 3:41 p.m. Tuesday.

Asked about the post, Carney told us she was “disappointed he continues to disregard the opinions of his constituents.”

Asked about how interested she was in running for Congress, Carney demurred, saying she’s “so busy with school board” that she “honestly (has) no idea.”

Stay tuned.

— Candid camera —

While the former Sheriff makes news in D.C., the current Sheriff is looking to “connect” with Duval County Residents by reviewing their security footage.

T.K. Waters’ office has rolled out “Connect Duval,” a “new public safety program embodying the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office mission to serve and protect in partnership with the community.”

“Your participation will greatly enhance emergency preparedness by enabling police, fire, and public safety professionals to better assess and rapidly respond to criminal activity and emergency situations. It will also enable investigators to easily gather evidence in case of an incident,” JSO claims.

More than 1,600 cameras have already been registered, creating a pretext for JSO to contact people if a crime was near one of them.

For those who want to go deeper, cameras can be “integrated” into JSO’s surveillance scheme: “Businesses and residents can take community security one step further by giving the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office direct access to your camera feed in case of a nearby emergency. All you need is a small CORE device that you plug into your camera system.”

Looking for more information?

To watch JSO’s video promoting the program, please click the image below:

— From sweet to sour —

Attorney General Ashley Moody announced 20 arrests stemming from a fraudulent Medicaid transportation scheme based in Jacksonville.

“These fraudsters operated a non-emergency medical transportation service that was supposed to help patients receive care. Instead, they billed Medicaid for thousands of trips never provided and inflated the mileage for the trips completed — in all, causing a loss to this taxpayer-funded program of more than $5 million. Thanks to my team of investigators and our law enforcement partners, this fraudulent transportation service did get somewhere — they each earned a free trip straight to jail,” Moody said, referring to the ironically named Sweet Transportation.

These are sour times for Jose Enrique Hernandez Fernandez and his various accomplices.

Phantom Medicaid transport has Ashley Moody’s attention.

The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit noted that over the “course of at least two years, Hernandez Fernandez and Sweet Transportation, LLC employees billed Medicaid for thousands of trips never provided and inflated mileage on completed trips. GPS data uncovered in the investigation revealed that drivers frequently submitted claims for trips while staying at home, going on vacation or traveling out of state.”

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Clay County Sheriff’s Office, and the Columbus Police Department of Columbus, Georgia, arrested the defendants. The MFCU will conduct the prosecution, meanwhile.

— Daniels double play —

A Jacksonville Democrat filed two pieces of legislation Monday with a common theme.

Rep. Kim Daniels’ bills both have to do with homes.

Kim Daniels floats two bills dealing with homeownership.

HB 171 is a cure bill for current restrictions for homestead exemptions for totally and permanently disabled first responders. It strikes statutory language claiming a heart attack that qualifies for disability protections must happen “no later than 24 hours after the first responder performed nonroutine stressful or strenuous physical activity in the line of duty.”

HB 173 amends the current statute governing homeowners’ associations, imposing new requirements, including mandating spending of 15% or more of the HOA’s annual income to “benefit the community” in the HOA’s county.

The legislation does not contemplate developments spanning more than one county (as of this writing). Nor is it immediately clear why 15% is the threshold Daniels wants.

Big chill —

Rep. Angie Nixon may have a solution to prisoners suffering in overheated cells during long, hot Florida summers.

The question is whether the Legislature has the will to enact it.

Nixon, who often conflicts with Republicans in the Legislature and the GOP power structure writ large, filed HB 181 Monday, a bill that would compel each “state correctional institution (to) provide a portable air conditioner or air-cooling system in each inmate housing unit adequate in size and number to each dormitory or sleeping area and maintain same in good working order at all times.”

Angie Nixon wants inmates to chill in the summer.

Nixon’s bill comes as the Department of Corrections contends that staffing issues in northern prisons have led to inmates being moved south.

As Florida Politics’ Danny McAuliffe reported, Secretary Ricky Dixon, who oversees state prisons, told lawmakers that the state is suffering a staffing “crisis” that’s resulted in the “compression” of inmates from northern to more southern prisons, where there are more corrections officers. That pattern has resulted in years of nonuse of at least 740 air-conditioned beds at a Franklin County facility in North Florida.

Florida Politics confirmed with the Department of Corrections that five dorms in the prison have been shuttered for at least two years and were not used during last summer, which featured heat that fetched national coverage.

“It was a hot summer and we won’t deny that” Dixon later told lawmakers, adding that most prisons do not have air conditioning.

The Franklin prison, located about an hour southwest of Tallahassee, was among 15 facilities lawmakers recently authorized to offer $5,000 hiring and retention bonuses. That funding was part of several changes made last Session to address the staffing crisis at Florida prisons, including raising the starting pay for officers to $22 per hour and changing the retention pay scheme.

— Gone through November? —

Jacksonville City Council member Rory Diamond won re-election this year, but he hasn’t been around much since, notes Dan Scanlan in Jacksonville Today.

Diamond is on Florida Army National Guard deployment to the Middle East as a JAG lawyer, and he could be out until the end of the year … given the situation in Israel, that stretch could be extended further.

Rory Diamond has not been around much lately, spending time deployed in the Middle East.

We reached out to the Council member this week to see if he’s headed there, but we didn’t get an answer before press time.

“As to who is handling constituent issues in his district, which encompasses Atlantic, Jacksonville and Neptune beaches as well as Mayport and the Intercoastal West area, (Executive Council Aide) Makenzi Conner said the district office remains open. Constituents can call (904) 255-5213 or email [email protected]” Scanlan notes.

— JTA Board adds 2 —

Patricia Gillum Sams and Megan Hayward are moving onto the Jacksonville Transportation Authority Board.

Megan Hayward is heading to the JTA Board. Image via JTA.

Mayor Deegan’s appointees bring experience to the board. Sams was JTA’s Diversity Program Manager through 2021. Hayward is the CEO of Temporary Assistance Guru.

“I am pleased to welcome Patricia Gillum Sams and Megan Hayward to the JTA Board of Directors,” said JTA CEO Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. “Both Patricia and Megan come to the Board with years of experience in their fields and will be invaluable additions. I am confident they will help move the JTA forward in continuing to provide mobility solutions in Northeast Florida.”

(Obligatory disclosure: Sams was in A.G. Gancarski’s Leadership Jacksonville cohort in 2021.)

— Wine time —

Jacksonville: The more you drink, the better it looks.

While that’s not (yet) an official slogan for the city’s tourism marketing efforts, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, given the consistent expansion of alcoholic privileges over the years.

As the Florida Times-Union reports, the latest move in that direction comes from the Downtown Investment Authority.

DIA seeks to allow public boozing on the Riverwalk — both the Northbank and the Southbank.

One reason — it beats having nothing at all to do.

The more you drink, the better Jacksonville’s Riverwalk looks.

“I think we all agree we have a very nice riverwalk, particularly on the Southbank, and there’s not much to do,” DIA board member Oliver Barakat said. “So, this will act as an amenity as the riverwalk further develops.”

Some caveats will apply.

“To comply with the law, people would have to drink from plastic cups that have a ‘Jacksonville Riverfront’ logo stamped on them. The drinks in such cups could only be purchased from designated, licensed establishments in an area that would be called the Jacksonville Riverwalk Specialty Center.”

Don’t think of taking your liquor onto the Main Street Bridge; that’s out of bounds.

First, the Jacksonville City Council must approve this plan.

— Safe & Sound —

Over 50 First Baptist Church Fernandina Beach members were touring Israel when Hamas attacked the nation. All of them landed safely at Jacksonville International Airport this week.

Among the many people who played a role in the group’s return was one of their fellow congregants, U.S. Rep. Aaron Bean, who attends the First Baptist Church Fernandina Beach when he’s in the Northeast Florida district.

Bean, a first-term Republican, said making sure his pastor and fellow church members made it home safely was his “No. 1 priority.” He added that some members of his congressional staff also knew people in the tour group.

Over 50 First Baptist Church Fernandina Beach members have made it home safely from Israel.

According to News4Jax, two planes routed through New York City and Charlotte carried the final 25 members of the tour group members to JIA on Sunday night. Senior Pastor Zach Terry said the remaining 29 travelers landed safely at other airports across the country.

In addition to Bean, the offices of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp — Peach State residents were in the tour group — were also in contact while the First Baptist Church cohort was waiting for a ride out of Israel.

The church members weren’t the only U.S. citizens to make the Israel-to-Florida trek this week. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Sunday that the “first mission” of “Project Dynamo” had safely returned 270 Americans to the Tampa airport and seven to the Orlando airport.

— Temp to perm —

The monthslong mystery of who would finally replace Melissa Ross as host of WJCT’s First Coast Connect is finally wrapped.

Veteran local journalist Anne Schindler will take over “the big chair” permanently later this month — or at least as permanent as anything can be in local news.

Schindler, who spent roughly a decade with First Coast News both on air and behind the scenes, previously was editor of Folio Weekly — the Jacksonville alt-weekly whose glory days ended soon after she left.

Anne Schindler takes over ‘the big chair.’

She takes over for the station’s preferred interim host, Al Letson, who managed most of the hosting work since Ross left for the Deegan Administration earlier this year. (For its part, WJCT looks forward to doing more work with Letson down the road).

“Anne has a breadth of knowledge and insight about the First Coast that can only come from decades of on-the-ground experience, and we’re excited to welcome her as the full-time host of the region’s most important daily conversation, ‘First Coast Connect.’ Adding a journalist of her caliber is another important step in the strengthening of our newsroom team,” said David McGowan, president and CEO of WJCT Public Media.

“I arrived in Northeast Florida at a time when Folio Weekly challenged elected officials and highlighted fringe tastemakers in equal measure. When I made the move to broadcast journalism, I had the opportunity to dig deeper into big stories. To bring everything I’ve learned to ‘First Coast Connect’ at this moment in our region’s evolution is a dream opportunity. I’m ready to listen — and to ask the hard questions that matter to our audience,” said Schindler.

Tweet, tweet:

— Mansion moment —

Need a little more space for a growing family, hobbies, or any number of other things?

There’s an 18,100-square-foot house in Avondale that might be for you, assuming you have the cash to get it in auction.

According to Mansion Global, bidding on the structure built in 1928 for $130,000 in Calvin Coolidge era money is expected to start in the $2 million to $7 million range.

Get your checkbooks ready for a steal of a deal.

Does that sound like a lot of money?

Well, consider the list price of $25 million. Even the $7 million top opening bid is a bargain in that context. And then consider the current owner spent over a decade on the renovation project, with $20 million invested in that cause.

But wait, there’s more!

“The artifacts unearthed during the project — brass irrigation sprinklers, the bottom of a cast-iron tub dated 1926, wood floor planks with the imprints of the manufacturer and fiber boards with the maker’s name — will be transferred to the new owner.”

— Home away from home —

Deegan won’t put up a fight against Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan’s insistence on continuing to play in London, even if the city commits to spending more than a billion dollars to renovate the Jags’ current digs.

“I just don’t think it’s that detrimental for the city to have that game where people can see Jacksonville from another place,” Deegan told Hanna Holthaus of the Times-Union.

Even with a new stadium, the Jaguars will still play in London.

The Mayor, who made her first London trip earlier this month for the Jags’ “home” game, sounds like Lenny Curry in asserting that she believes the arrangement benefits Jaxsons.

“Ultimately, if we can show people the economic benefit from [bringing London companies] and how it helps their personal neighborhood if we have those additional job opportunities or infusion of cash into our community, I think that’s helpful,” Deegan told Holthaus. “So, I’ll do my best to tell that story.”

Of course, Curry tried to tell the same story and the money from England has yet to trickle down into Grand Park, Sandalwood, Mandarin and Lackawanna. Maybe Deegan will have better luck.

— Will Lawrence play? —

Will Trevor Lawrence play Thursday night?

That is question one for the Jaguars as they prepare to face the Saints in New Orleans.

Is Trevor Lawrence ready to play?

Here’s what we know so far:

Lawrence was on the practice field Tuesday with a brace on his left knee. According to reports, C.J. Beathard took most first-team snaps.

After practice, Lawrence said that he was going to do everything he could to play.

“I feel a lot better today than I would have thought,” Lawrence said. “I like how I’m progressing.”

Lawrence said that practices have not been as physical because of the short week.

“I’m trying to protect it as long as I can,” Lawrence said. “Just trying to put me in the best position to play on Thursday. We’ll just see how it progresses the next couple of days.”

Lawrence also said that because it is the first time in his career, he has dealt with a knee injury, he was still figuring out the intricacies of playing with the injury if it comes to that.

“This game is about toughness and at times playing through injuries. You have to be smart,” Lawrence said. “The position that we’re in, there are guys who have injuries and might not play. You want your guys to be healthy in crunchtime down the stretch. Some guys are more conservative with injuries and some guys aren’t. The biggest thing is you have to feel confident going out on that field.

“I pride myself on being a guy that plays and will play through pain or injury.”

Offensive coordinator Press Taylor said if Lawrence can’t go, they wouldn’t have to change much in the offense for Beathard.

“They can run a lot of the same stuff, we think,” Taylor said. “There may be some things you feature more so if it’s one quarterback versus another, but we don’t feel like it affects our offense much.”

One of the pieces of the equation that must be considered is the Jaguars’ schedule. With only three days between Lawrence’s fourth quarter injury on Sunday and the team’s departure for New Orleans on Wednesday, there is less time to recover than Lawrence would have during a normal week.

On the other hand, Lawrence would have 10 days to rest up before the Jaguars’ next game in Pittsburg on Oct. 29. Then, the Jaguars have their bye week.

How much of a factor is the playing surface in New Orleans? The Saints play on an artificial surface in the Ceasars Superdome which can be harder in knees and other joints. That fact alone won’t likely be the determining factor, but it should not be left out of the equation.

The Jaguars lead the AFC South 4-2 for the season. A win keeps them on top of the division.

— Bortles tribute? —

Speaking of the Jaguars, the Governor’s son Mason is a fan.

And as First Lady Casey DeSantis said in an interview with Dana Loesch this week, Mason wanted to dress up like a Jaguar player — as #5.

That number is most associated with former quarterback Blake Bortles, but five-year-old Mason doesn’t remember that era of football.

The Governor’s son is a fan of #5 and not necessarily Blake Bortles.

Instead, the number was a tribute to his father’s Yale baseball career.

All was going great, the First Lady said, until she had to “iron on the numbers.”

“And he wanted his dad’s number from baseball because Ron played baseball in college and was captain of the team, whatever. And so, it was the No. 5.”

A moment of situational dyslexia followed.

“Well, sometimes, you know, you could have a mom moment where you just aren’t thinking straight and there’s a lot going on. So somehow, I managed to iron on a backward two and didn’t realize it until I took it off. And this kid just is like crying because he wanted nothing more than to have daddy’s number on the back of his (costume).”

“So, I’m sitting there as any good mom would do, scraping it off with my finger,” she said. “45 minutes it took me to get this number off there, but I was able to do it and I was able to be a mom. I got the ‘five’ victory, you know and then he wears it for like two minutes and then he’s done, and it’s like, OK, well, thanks a lot.”

With Lawrence potentially not playing this week (more on that below), perhaps Mason can make his way to New Orleans for the Thursday night tilt?

Staff Reports


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