Jacksonville Bold for 11.1.23: Just win, baby

High aerial photo Jacksonville FL
Donna Deegan vies for the title of biggest Jaguars booster.

For many, Mayor Donna Deegan is the diametrically opposite of her Republican predecessor, Lenny Curry.

But when it comes to untrammeled enthusiasm for the Jacksonville Jaguars, the two have more similarities than differences, demonstrated by her enthusiastic social media post after the team’s win in Pittsburgh Sunday — channeling former Raiders owner Al Davis.

 

With the team 6-2, the Jaguars have performed better with Deegan as Mayor than her male predecessors. While that is more than likely just fate, given a small sample size and a disappointing on-field performance for most of the 21st century, it’s a positive sign.

Yet, for every positive, there’s a negative in Jacksonville. And while the Jaguars’ strong performance is national news these days (with more on that and the path forward in this newsletter), the city didn’t get through the Florida/Georgia game without a significant negative.

Namely, CBS putting the team on blast for its stadium and its “iffy” field with “uneven” turf, which an announcer noted was the fault of the city of Jacksonville, which owns the stadium and not the Jacksonville Jaguars. The sod hadn’t fully taken, and there were worries expressed that the field was something to “keep an eye on.”

With the Georgia-Florida game not being guaranteed to the city in perpetuity, little things like this matter. The commentary shifted the burden to the Deegan administration, which eventually offered a response to the attack.

Donna Deegan — a big Jaguars booster, or the biggest?

“The field was resodded after BCU-Southern last weekend for the second time this year and in accordance with NFL standards. While the sod faced a week of warm weather and was dry upon arrival, the field was tested and passed prior to the game. No safety issue for players,” tweeted spokesperson Phil Perry.

Happily, the teams got through Saturday’s contest without a significant injury caused by the sod — and ironically enough, the Jaguars’ game on CBS the next day was on a field in Pittsburgh that showed a clear difference between fresh sod in the center and more established natural turf closer to the sidelines.

Still, for those wanting a stadium deal, one where the city commits to spending as much as a billion dollars, the broadcast network’s nastygram could be the rising tide that lifts all boats.

It provides more visual evidence that the current stadium is obsolete, thus giving the Jaguars rhetorical ballast to use at their leisure and giving the Deegan administration — which wants a deal of some kind — an excuse to do something more team-friendly with less pushback.

Last month, administration official Mike Weinstein said negotiations had “many months” to go. He told the City Council that city negotiators met “with their team, as well as their engineers, their architects and their designers to really get into the weeds about what this picture really is that they’ve been presenting, what’s in it, the value of it and, and how possibly could it be constructed as we talk about construction,” Weinstein said.

“I continue to feel very confident that they want to be here. We want them to be here long term,” Weinstein added, cautioning that negotiations will “take a while,” but the goal is to have the team in its revamped stadium by 2028 with a new 30-year lease.

As Florida Politics first reported earlier this year, the Jaguars envision a heavy local investment in the stadium, with the Jaguars responsible for the sports district around it. The city government would primarily shoulder the stadium cost, which could be on the hook for anywhere between $800 and $934 million — two-thirds of the overall price tag. Meanwhile, the city could expect to spend between $75 million and $100 million on the sports district.

With that kind of civic investment on the line, the Jaguars would be advised to consider the Mayor’s “Just win, baby” comment as an executive order, one applicable at least until the City Council ratifies the stadium deal.

Fiorentino first —

The Fiorentino Group might be managing state lobbying for the city of Jacksonville, at least if Thursday’s Professional Services Evaluation Committee agenda is any indication.

Fiorentino finished ahead of The Southern Group and Becker and Poliakoff.

Subcommittee members Karen Bowling and Brittany Norris will recommend Thursday that the recommendation move forward to the Mayor for final selection so contract negotiations can commence.

Marty Fiorentino is a mover and a shaker who will soon lobby for Jacksonville.

It’s not a done deal yet, per spox Phil Perry, noting the administration “received six fantastic proposals and the average scores for the top three are only points apart” and “will be making a decision on how to move forward in the near future.”

Fiorentino has been here before.

In 2015, Curry’s chief administrator, Sam Mousa, announced the firm’s selection to lead state lobbying efforts with Southern and Ballard Partners.

The City of Jacksonville terminated its contract with Ballard Partners effective Monday, July 31, for federal and state lobbying, and the state lobbying piece was the second one that hung in suspense.

Langton Consulting, headed up by a supporter of Deegan’s campaign, got a piece of the federal contract for grant writing. Becker and Poliakoff will assist Langton with federal lobbying since the local company has no federal lobbyists.

— Vision thing —

What’s the State of Downtown Jacksonville?

Unsurprisingly, Downtown Vision offered its take with the recently released 2023 State of Downtown Report, described as “an 18-month recap of progress and development in Downtown Jacksonville from Jan. 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023.”

This takes us through the end of the Curry era; Downtown Vision sees the positives already delivered while optimistic that more are on the way.

What’s the direction of Downtown Jax? Find out here.

“The 2023 report tracks a significant increase in public and private projects in the development pipeline; as of June 2023, the pipeline totaled approximately $8 billion, up from $5 billion in last year’s report,” the group notes.

One fascinating marker is residential viability. Local observers have long suggested that people living downtown would drive economic development that has waned since the 1970s. With 4,600 homes and apartments online now and 5,000 new ones under construction, the critical mass is manifesting to test that precept.

In the last year up until the end of June, more than half a billion dollars of projects have broken ground, further proof of commercial momentum and ROI for investors.

More is on the way.

“Completed and planned expansions in the education, cultural and entertainment sectors are poised to bring more people to Downtown in the coming years. Jacksonville University opened Florida’s first new law school in 20 years in Downtown in August 2022 and is seeking a new expanded location. The Florida Theatre is nearing completion of a $15 million renovation. And The Jacksonville Jaguars recently finished the state-of-the-art Miller Electric Center and are planning the ‘stadium of the future,’” Downtown Vision notes.

The good times have only started, meanwhile.

“The future of Downtown Jacksonville has never been brighter thanks to leadership from Mayor Deegan, City Council, the Downtown Investment Authority and private sector leaders building transformational projects. Our annual State of Downtown Report outlines and analyzes all the Downtown data to view our progress all in one place. From expanded waterfront access and tourism amenities to unprecedented residential growth, this report shows many sides to the growth of DTJax,” said Jacob Gordon, CEO of Downtown Vision, Inc. “A better Downtown helps all of Jacksonville, and it’s exciting to be in the midst of this ongoing transformation of our urban core.”

Tweet, tweet:

 

— Israel rally —

The Republican Party of Duval County brought foreign policy to the front door of Jacksonville’s City Hall Monday, with GOP legislators from federal, state and local levels standing united for Israel’s military offensive against Hamas.

U.S. Reps. Aaron Bean and John Rutherford were on hand, as were state Sen. Clay Yarborough, state Reps. Jessica Baker and Dean Black (the party Chair), Sheriff T.K. Waters and City Council members Ken Amaro, Michael Boylan and Nick Howland.

The rally comes in the wake of a Howland-sponsored City Council resolution “in Support of Israel as It Defends Itself in the War Launched by the Terrorist Organization Hamas.” The measure stipulates that the Council “stands unequivocally allied with Israel” during its military operations.

Various speakers offered remarks, none more memorable than the fiery Bean, who tied in the 80-degree weather with the situation in the Middle East.

“I know it’s warm. I know it’s uncomfortable. But guess what? Sometimes, when you have to confront evil, it can get a little hot to face down people who have no idea what they’re talking about. It can get a little uncomfortable,” Bean said as people chanted pro-Palestinian messages in the park across the street from City Hall.

Police and counter protesters in James Weldon Johnson Park.

Other speakers included Yarborough, who contended the “genocidal acts evoke parallels” to the Holocaust perpetuated by the Nazis.

Deegan, of Lebanese descent, is out of town and was not at the rally organized by the opposition party. Earlier this month, she asserted that Hamas had “engaged in unprecedented barbarism” while maintaining hope that a “peaceful resolution” is possible.

Bean noted that he wanted to meet with her on Monday, but her being out of town precluded that.

“I think if she (were) here, she would be here,” Bean said.

— Go fish —

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford’s commitment to Red Snapper fishing continues, with a bill moving through the Natural Resources committee last week.

Rep. Rutherford visits Jacksonville City Hall. Image via A.G. Gancarski.

H.R. 4587, the “Red Snapper Act,” is intended to “prevent the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from implementing area closures in the South Atlantic until the South Atlantic Great Red Snapper Count is complete and the findings are integrated into the fishery’s stock assessment.”

The bill is a refile, and while it remains to be seen if it gets traction this time, there is apparent enthusiasm for it.

“The Red Snapper Act will address long-standing management concerns held by thousands of anglers across Florida and the South Atlantic and will help support our nation’s local economies,” said Congressman Rutherford. “In Florida’s 5th Congressional District alone, the recreational fishing industry supports nearly 4,500 local jobs. Florida’s anglers deserve dependable access to red snapper fishing. I am grateful to House Natural Resources Committee Chair Bruce Westerman, committee members, co-sponsors, and advocates for their role in moving this legislation forward.”

“H.R. 4587 prevents the Biden administration from implementing erroneous and burdensome regulations on red snapper fishing without the proper science to back them up,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chair Bruce Westerman. “The South Atlantic red snapper is a highly sought commercial and recreational reef fish whose annual harvest levels are dependent on fishery management decisions based on stock assessments. By preventing area closures in the South Atlantic without necessary scientific research, this committee is maintaining our priority of using fact-based data to promote responsible environmental policy. I want to thank Rep. Rutherford and all the co-sponsors of this bill for their work on this issue, as it will benefit thousands of commercial and recreational fishermen who depend on these resources.”

Industry stakeholders hailed the Committee’s approval.

“The Red Snapper Act is key in ensuring that the best science is used to inform South Atlantic snapper-grouper management, rather than rushing into hasty, job-killing decisions,” said American Sportfishing Association (ASA) Southeast Fisheries Policy Director Martha Guyas. “Widespread closures are not needed and would be catastrophic to Florida’s nearly $14 billion recreational fishing industry. The American Sportfishing Association thanks Rep. John Rutherford and bill co-sponsors, including committee members Daniel Webster and Garrett Graves, for introducing this science-informed legislation. ASA also applauds Chair Bruce Westerman and other members of the Committee for their approval of the Red Snapper Act.”

The legislation is also a priority for the state of Florida.

“The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) thanks Congressman Rutherford for his leadership on this legislation,” said Jessica McCawley, Director of FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management. “The snapper-grouper fishery is both popular and economically important to the state of Florida and has been for generations, so it is critical that fishery managers have the most current and independent data before making management decisions. The Red Snapper Act will prevent closures until all the necessary data has been analyzed; this is great, conservation-centered policy.”

— Ruff justice —

In courts of law, who speaks out for dogs?

Sen. Jennifer Bradley is refiling legislation this year that ensures animals have advocates in Florida courts.

SB 272 would ensure that these lawyers or law school students, who would be vetted by the Florida Bar as animal advocates in abuse cases and other such hearings, would have an interest in animal welfare. Advocates would examine documentary evidence, including vet records and police reports, and would present their findings in the pursuit of justice.

Jennifer Bradley wants to give animals a voice.

Two decades ago, this concept was unheard of. The Florida Bar noted last year that the first such appearance of an animal advocate was in 2007 in former NFL player Michael Vick’s dog fighting case, which earned him 30 months in prison.

The bill has a House companion and meaningful support from animal rights advocates.

“The Courtroom Animal Advocate Program will allow for much-needed support and assistance to prosecutors and judges in cases of animal cruelty while providing a voice for the animal victims. At the discretion of the presiding judge, the volunteer lawyers will also help alleviate the burden of crowded dockets on both judges and prosecutors by assisting with the animal welfare aspects of each case,” said Kate MacFall, Florida Senior State Director, The Humane Society of the United States.

“The Creation of a Courtroom Animal Advocate Program will offer additional protection against egregious instances of cruelty to dogs and cats in Florida. Court-appointed legal advocates will support the work of prosecutors and judges and help to improve courtroom efficiency while ensuring that the best interests of these animals are being considered in criminal cruelty proceedings,” said Alicia Prygoski, Strategic Legislative Affairs Manager at the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “We are grateful to Sen. Bradley, Rep. Lindsay Cross, and Representative Berny Jacques for spearheading this important legislation.”

Highway to hell —

Jacksonville’s commutes are among the very worst in the country.

You probably didn’t need us to tell you that, especially if you’re reading this while stalled in a traffic jam.

Forbes Home, in it’s the Hardest Commutes In the U.S. study, ranks our local drives to and from the proverbial salt mines as the third worst anywhere in the United States.

Traffic is bad, but the worst?

“The top five hardest commutes in the nation are in Nashville, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Houston, Texas; and Washington, D.C.,” the write-up revealed, not surprising anyone stuck in traffic in those cities.

It’s a testament to city planning — or lack thereof — that Jacksonville is the only Florida city in the top five and is worse even than Atlanta, which is known for its brutal worker bee drives.

Why is Jacksonville so bad?

“The city also happens to have the worst drivers in the U.S., according to a study by Clever Move. Some 531,037 workers live in Jacksonville and 3% have no access to a car. The city has a 25.6 commute time, walkability score of 25.6, transit accessibility score of 20.8 and bikeability score of 40.5. The area also gets 120 days of rainfall per year, 11 more days than the national average, which could make driving conditions less safe,” Forbes notes.

Stay safe out there.

— Gold Club —

Local real estate brokers are bringing home the hardware.

“The Northeast Florida Association of Realtors’ Global Business Council is proud to announce it has taken home the prestigious Gold Award in the 2023 National Association of Realtors (NAR) Global Achievement Program. NEFAR was one of only nine associations to receive the Gold Award out of 130 global business councils in the nation,” the group touted in a recent news release.

They’ve been here before, winning the Gold Award in 2022, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016.

NEFAR gets the gold.

“NEFAR is proud to be recognized for exceptional work in the global arena by receiving the Gold Award from the National Association of Realtors,” said 2023 NEFAR President Diana Galavis. “The NEFAR Global Business Council is a leader in the state by providing our Realtor members and affiliates the tools and resources needed to conduct global real estate business.”

The Global Business Council facilitates “international certifications, seminars and networking events.” It keeps members “informed about the latest global real estate trends and practices,” thus helping “its members to serve their clients effectively in the global marketplace.”

“It has been an honor to partner with each member of NEFAR’s Global Business Council this year as we’ve grown global organically together. This year, we tripled our membership and now have the most diverse group of members ever in the history of the council. Our educational and social opportunities have been as diverse as our membership. We have made so many amazing Global Connections both domestically and internationally, and we are proud that so many of our members earned their Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designations this year,” said NEFAR Global Business Council Chair April Hall-Lloyd.

— Burton boost —

Lakesha Burton left her position as Director of Community Initiatives for the Deegan administration last month to care for her husband, who is dealing with health challenges. Friends of hers are raising money to help.

Jacksonville gives a boost to Lakesha Burton.

“Since our dear friend Greg Burton was admitted to the hospital, the Burtons have received an overwhelming show of love, affection, and support from the Jacksonville community. The outpouring of offers to help are becoming hard to say no to because we know how much it means to you to be standing by the Burtons at their hour of greatest need,” the GoFundMe page reads.

People are encouraged to “provide initial and/or ongoing support to the Burtons, as Greg fights to get back on his feet and Lakesha supports her husband’s fight in ways that only endear her to us.”

So far, the fundraising is going well, poised to exceed its $20,000 goal, with Pamela Paul contributing $10,000.

— Jaguars on top —

After beating the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, the Jaguars are tied atop the AFC standings (6-2) at the team’s bye week. Jacksonville has the same record as the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens.

If the playoffs started today, the Jaguars would host the Cleveland Browns in the wild-card round. Of course, there are more than two months of football still to be played before the postseason is set.

Looking at the Jaguars’ schedule, there is reason for optimism.

The schedule gives hope to Jaguars fans.

After the bye week, the Jaguars host the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners must travel cross-country to the First Coast, which is a challenging task for West Coast teams. Plus, San Francisco has lost their last three games after starting the year 5-0.

The Jaguars then host Tennessee, now quarterbacked by newcomer Will Levis, before traveling to Houston for a rematch with a Texans team that beat the Jaguars in the season’s first month.

After that, a three-game stretch against the AFC North, including a Monday Night Football game in Jacksonville against the Cincinnati Bengals, a road game at the Browns, and a home matchup with the Ravens.

The Jaguars finish the regular season with games at Tampa Bay, home against Carolina and at Tennessee.

It will likely take at least 13 wins to earn the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. That accomplishment is in play for the Jaguars. Tiebreakers could factor in. Because of the Jaguars’ loss to Kansas City, the Chiefs held a head-to-head tiebreaker over Jacksonville. KC would get the higher seed if the two teams ended the season with the same record.

The Jaguars can earn the tiebreaker over the Ravens if they beat Baltimore on Dec. 17.

If the Jaguars can remain healthy, the offensive line continues to improve, and the pass rush is better in the second half of the season, the Jaguars could contend for home-field advantage in the AFC.

The offensive line should be better with Walker Little’s return to health. He was active for Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh but did not play. He’ll have two more weeks to heal from his knee injury.

The Jaguars also traded for a starting guard Tuesday, sending a sixth-round pick to Minnesota for Ezra Cleveland.

And then there is the pass rush. Josh Allen has been terrific this year, totaling nine sacks in eight games. He is on pace to shatter the Jaguars’ franchise record for sacks in a season (Calais Campbell, 14.5). Travon Walker picked up a sack against Pittsburgh. He has 3.5 sacks, matching his rookie year total.

The Jaguars are Super Bowl contenders. Let that thought percolate over the bye week.

Staff Reports


One comment

  • Seber Newsome III

    November 1, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    I WANT THE JAGUARS TO LOSE EVERY GAME BECAUSE I CANNOT STAND SHAD THE CON

Comments are closed.


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