Jacksonville Bold for 4.24.24: Qualifying week is here
Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline at dusk.

Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline
Qualifying week has arrived — as challengers emerge.

Jacksonville’s two Republican Congressmen have safe seats by most reckonings, but both will face ballot tests this year.

However, one looks to deal with his big battle in August, while the other must wait until November.

Rep. John Rutherford looks poised to face opponents he’s seen before in the GOP Primary for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, assuming both his opponents qualify.

He has all the momentum financially, with over $143,000 raised in Q1. Despite spending $78,443 this quarter and $293,307 thus far this cycle, he still has $504,113 on hand.

Qualifying week is here — as challengers emerge for Aaron Bean and John Rutherford.

Mara Macie, who launched another Congressional campaign this year over Rutherford’s refusal to support Freedom Caucus Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio for Speaker, had less than $20,000 on hand after Q1.

Macie was one of two Primary challengers to Rutherford in 2022. She was unsuccessful, getting 18% of the vote and finishing in a distant second place, with Rutherford taking 66% in that election.

As of this writing Wednesday, she is an “active” candidate, meaning the state has yet to process her qualifying paperwork.

Perpetual candidate Gary Koniz is listed as a candidate with the state Division of Elections but appears to need significant fundraising this cycle. He hasn’t filed a report and will run it as a write-in.

Meanwhile, November will also see a ballot battle.

LaShonda “L.J.” Holloway has filed with the Division of Elections to run in Florida’s 4th Congressional District.

She will face the man who defeated her by more than 20 points in the General Election two years ago: Fernandina Beach’s Aaron Bean.

“Given Bean’s record coupled with Reproductive Rights (Amendment 4) and The decriminalization of Marijuana (Amendment 4) on the ballot more people are engaged, and I am hopeful that people like me who keep their pulse on the people and want to Defend our Democracy will VOTE L.J. Holloway for a better day,” Holloway said in a text message Monday.

Bean has more than $538,000 banked. Holloway, meanwhile, appears to have a little more than $10,000 left over from her 2022 run.

It’s not just Congressional seats dealing with qualifying this week.

The 4th Circuit State Attorney and Public Defender (Melissa Nelson and Charles Cofer, respectively) appear on track for four more years as no opposition is manifesting.

Permit push

Bean is teaming up with Florida’s Senators on bicameral legislation intended to “codify and protect the State of Florida’s Clean Water Act dredge and fill permitting program and to clarify the law to protect regulatory certainty.”

It will also help similar programs in Michigan and New Jersey.

“The ability for states to take the lead in regulating their natural resources is vital, especially in the Sunshine State. Florida’s 404 permitting program remains essential for protecting our iconic wildlife and valued wetlands while reducing wasteful duplication and improving responsiveness to applicants and the communities’ projects they serve,” Bean said.

Bean wants to codify Florida’s Clean Water Act dredge permitting process.

Rubio added, “The federal government should seek to delegate authority to the states whenever it can, especially when the procedures are clearly provided in law. My bill would codify the State of Florida’s Clean Water Act permitting program, consistent with Congressional intent, to ensure permitting decisions affecting Florida are made by Floridians, not by one-size-fits-all Washington bureaucrats.”

“Florida has unique waterways and natural resources that shouldn’t be regulated by a one-size-fits-all federal structure. This bill protects Florida’s Clean Water Act permitting authorities that I fought for as Governor and secured as Senator under the prior administration, and ensures our state has the power to make the best decisions for Floridians while protecting our natural resources for future generations,” asserted Scott.

Scott’s office says this would eliminate duplicative processes “in permitting and helps protect Florida’s environment by allowing Florida to follow the state’s permitting program standards.”

As the Environmental Protection Agency notes, Florida’s scheme can “ensure the protection of Florida’s aquatic resources equal to or better than the existing federal permitting program.”

DASOTA scandals

A state Senator from Jacksonville is pushing the Duval County School District for accountability about the latest in a series of issues involving teachers at a local school of the arts.

Sen. Clay Yarborough, in a two-page letter to acting Superintendent Dana Krisnar, the School Board and Jacksonville General Counsel Michael Fackler, is expressing “serious concerns about the immediate safety” of students at Douglas Anderson in the wake of a February arrest of a teacher over a “sexual incident” covered recently in the local press.

“The fact that the district was aware of this and allowed the teacher to remain in direct proximity with students and chose not to inform parents until last week is beyond comprehension,” Yarborough writes.

Clay Yarborough is calling for transparency and accountability about the latest in a series of issues involving teachers at a local school. Image via Florida Senate.

Indeed, the time between the Feb. 27 arrest of Christopher Allen-Black for what the school principal called a “misdemeanor charge of exposure of sexual organs” in Orlando at a Disney resort and the announcement of his reassignment to parents (as the “presumption of innocence” applies) Wednesday, April 17 is notable for Yarborough.

The accused is the fifth DASOTA teacher in 14 months to be removed from classroom duties in some way.

Yarborough asserts that the pattern shows that Douglas Anderson students are in “imminent danger of harm by adults” and extends his argument to show that “all Duval County students” are at risk.

He also notes that the district hasn’t been transparent about the investigation it launched last year in the wake of the former vocal department chair acting lewdly with a student at the time, ahead of the chair’s retirement and other charges of “inappropriate touching and sexually-charged communications” from teachers.

Yarborough seeks to find out when the investigation report will be released, whether district policy requires parental notification of an employee’s arrest, how the “faculty vetting” process will change going forward, whether there will be a leadership change at the school, and what safeguards are in place to stop the troubling trend.

Penalty enhancement

In the wake of last Summer’s racially motivated murder of three at a Dollar General near Edward Waters University, a group of Jacksonville City Council members are pushing to triple the punishment for “certain ordinance violations in the city if they relate to hatred or violence toward others,” per the Florida Times-Union’s Hanna Holthaus.

Jacksonville City Council member Jimmy Peluso, who is introducing the bill, said people said they “expect something, especially when three lives were taken away by someone who had a hate in their heart.”

And his bill will be the legislative vehicle answering that call, punishing acts “committed with the primary purpose of expressing or attempting to promote animosity, hostility or malice” when those acts are based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin.

Such acts as “littering” with hate flyers and using light shows to project racist messages — issues locally in the past — would be covered by this bill.

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Moving on

Former Jacksonville Deputy General Counsel Lawsikia Hodges has been hired by the Atlanta-based law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell.

Hodges has joined the firm’s Jacksonville office. She will head up the firm’s governmental affairs practice in Jacksonville and be a member of the firm’s real estate group.

Lawsikia Hodges is taking her skills to Atlanta-based law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell. Photo via Smith, Gambrell & Russell.

“We are pleased to welcome Lawsikia to SGR and salute her many years of public service to the City of Jacksonville,” said Steven E. Brust, managing partner of the Jacksonville office. “Her experience in city, county, and local government will be a valuable resource to our clients.”

Hodges had extensive experience in Jacksonville government legal affairs. Most notably, she was the lead attorney for several city governmental agencies, such as the Jacksonville Port Authority, Jacksonville Housing Authority, and the Police and Fire Pension Board of Trustees.

Hodges was an attorney at Jacksonville City Hall for 17 years before resigning in March. She stepped down after being considered as one of the candidates for the city’s General Counsel position. But Mayor Donna Deegan assigned that role to Michael Fackler and the City Council confirmed the appointment.

Hot dogs

Summer heat is coming, and the Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services needs to refurbish its HVAC system.

“We need the support of the community in a way that we never have before,” says Chief Michael Bricker, explaining how the center is “out of space” and needs people to commit to take one of 60 pups for six weeks and become part of ACPS’ “Space Force.”

Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services is trying to beat the heat this Summer.

Without those commitments, contractors won’t be able to complete the work safely.

Those interested in helping out are urged to stop by the location on Forest Street today and do a solid for a furry foster friend.

Earth Day Festival

Start your weekend off in an eco-conscious way in the heart of Downtown.

James Weldon Johnson Park will host the titular event on Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“This event is hosted by the Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board and JEA, with support from the City of Jacksonville and the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Commission. They all hope that you will join them to learn about protecting the environment, conservation, reducing energy and water use and preventing pollution,” the JEPB notes.

Food trucks will be on hand; posters and T-shirts will be available.


For those who can’t wait until Friday, visit the fifth floor of the Ed Ball Building, where T-shirts will be available for a reasonable $10, and posters will also be available for purchase.

This week, at least, it’s easy being green.

Jazzed up

Fans of jazz can expect more programming catering to them from public radio’s WJCT for the next few weeks, and true fans can attend a special event with one of the hottest musicians in the medium.

“WJCT Public Media and the Jacksonville Music Experience present Jazz in Jax: An Evening of Discussion and Music Celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month on the WJCT Soundstage on Saturday from 6-9 p.m.,” the station notes in a news release.

WJCT is bringing the jazz with a special event on Sunday.

“Jazz in Jax features a panel discussion and a live jazz-jam performance led by Jacksonville-bred, Grammy Award-winning musician and educator Ulysses Owens, Jr. The panel discussion, led by Owens, Jr., will delve into various topics and illuminate the history and contemporary vibrancy of jazz, the true American art form, in Jacksonville and beyond.”

The event Saturday night is a teaser for Jazz Beyond Tradition, a new two-hour program hosted by Owens, Jr., and radio and podcast veteran Keanna Faircloth, which airs on Sunday nights on WJCT News 89.9 from April 21 to May 26.

At this writing, Owens’ latest album has topped the Jazz Beat chart for eight weeks.

Justiss for all …

Before the jazz sesh, one of the most memorable poets in Jacksonville history will receive a fitting tribute on Saturday at the Main Library.

Alan Justiss will be honored at 2 p.m., with attention being paid to his body of work, a sprawling collection that embodied decades of first drafts offered between bits of sage advice for younger writers and artists making their way in the local scene.

“The JPL Main has accessioned Alan’s poetry manuscripts into their Special Collection. This is a great result after many years of holding, working with and advocating for these 15,000+ typed pages and additional ephemera,” asserts Nestor Gil, a local poet prominent in the scene around the turn of the century who has devoted years to honoring his mentor’s legacy.

A Florida Times-Union article after Justiss’ death in 2011 estimated he had written up to 100,000 poems. He composed on a manual typewriter, often sitting on an overturned plastic white bucket, smoking cigs and drinking beer as he wrote.

Those on hand can expect a screening of part of a Troy Lukillaria documentary about Justiss, as well as a tribute poem from Lynn Harlin, a discussion of that era’s poetry scene from Tim Gilmore, and readings of Justiss poems and/or discussions of the man himself from Gil, Al Letson and Shelton Hull.

The Bukowski-esque Justiss, whose delivery was reminiscent of pro wrestling legend Terry Funk, was a controversial figure in his era. He lived hand to mouth with little concern for much beyond his creative output and no thought of legacy, living in the liminal space of perpetual creation until his body gave out.

Yet Owen Holmes’ (of the pop group Black Kids) comments to the T-U in 2011 seem prescient today.

“I’m sure there are thousands who have never heard of him who will hear of him in the future,” Holmes said. “It’s not over with that guy.”

Hear his best poem (arguably) below.


Roadeo warriors

Jacksonville’s local utility hosted the Florida Triple Crown Roadeo last weekend, a showcase for its maintenance crews and operators.

“It was a pleasure to serve as the host of this year’s Florida Triple Crown Roadeo,” said JTA CEO Nat Ford. “Our talented bus operators and maintenance technicians once again showed their impeccable skills in driving and maintaining our vehicles. I look forward to seeing them showcase their craft on a national stage at the International Bus Roadeo later this month.”

This is not JTA’s first ‘roadeo.’ Image via JTA.

Some locals brought home the hardware.

JTA Paratransit Maintenance Technician Melvin Nesmith won the A/C Module competition. The Maintenance Technician team of Gilberto Dorta, George McGarry, and Rudy Wells won the I/O Controls competition, the Cummins Engine Module competition with 450 points and the Highest Vapor Door Module competition. JTA Bus Operator Ramon Farfan also won the Pre-Trip Inspection competition.

Most likely Jaguars’ draft picks

In the NFL Draft, teams dream about need meeting value. That’s when the highest-rated player on their draft board fills a position of need for the team.

NFL general managers discuss drafting the best player available, but it rarely happens. GMs or coaches will talk themselves into picking a player at a position of need, convincing themselves that a player deserves a higher grade.

The history of Jaguars drafts is littered with such decisions. From Reggie Williams to Matt Jones to Blake Bortles to C.J. Henderson, the Jaguars have missed first-round picks because they drafted players who the brass thought would fill a particular role.

It’s probably going to happen again this year.

NFL general managers discuss drafting the best player available, but it rarely happens.

After adding a substantial free agency haul, the Jaguars still have some position groups to improve. One of them, the interior offensive line, isn’t likely to be in play in the first round. Guards are rarely first-round picks and only one of this year’s crop, Washington’s Troy Fautanu, is likely to go in the first round. Some teams project him as a tackle.

The other Jaguars’ positions of need include cornerback, wide receiver and interior defensive line.

That’s where the Jaguars will likely lean in the first round on Thursday.

Jacksonville holds the No.17 pick in the first round. A handful of players at corner and receiver fit at 17 and will likely be available. The number of interior defensive linemen is much smaller at 17, but a trade-back could be in play if the Jaguars like a defensive tackle or two.

Let’s take a closer look.

At receiver, the top three players, Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., Washington’s Rome Odunze and LSU’s Malik Nabers, will likely go in the top 10. The second tier of receivers includes Brian Thomas Jr. of LSU, Georgia’s Ladd McConkey and Texas’ Adonai Mitchell.

This is where a trade could come into play.

Unless the Jaguars think those three receivers can be a No. 1 pass catcher, they could work a trade with the San Francisco 49ers for Brandon Aiyuk, who has been rumored to be on the trade block. If the Jaguars think Aiyuk, 26, would be a suitable replacement for Calvin Ridley, they could use their first-round pick as part of a trade deal.

While Jaguars’ general manager Trent Baalke has a track record of drafting big guys in the first round, he has only used a first-round selection on a wide receiver once. That was in 2012 when he was the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers. He took A.J. Jenkins, the former Terry Parker high school star. In his only season in San Francisco, Jenkins played only three games with the Niners. He was traded to Kansas City the following year.

Suppose the Jaguars’ brass opts for a cornerback to replace the departed Darious Williams. In that case, they will have some options, including Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry, Iowa’s Cooper Dejean or Clemson’s Nate Wiggins. Wiggins would seem to fit the style of new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen the best. Wiggins is very fast but needs to get stronger. The Jaguars signed Ronald Darby from the Baltimore Ravens in the offseason, so Wiggins wouldn’t necessarily have to be forced into the starting lineup right away.

It seems remarkable that a team that missed the playoffs the previous season might use a first-round pick on a player who isn’t an immediate starter, but that could be what the Jaguars do on Thursday.

Staff Reports


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