Jacksonville Bold for 5.22.24: Homeless plan coming soon.
Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline at dusk.

Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline
A plan by the Donna Deegan administration to implement state legislation requiring counties to ban public sleeping or camping by unhoused people is forthcoming.

The Donna Deegan administration is urgently working on its plan to implement state legislation requiring counties to ban public sleeping or camping by unhoused people, tasking Sheriffs with taking them to centralized campgrounds with social services.

But a representative says the Jacksonville Mayor isn’t ready to make any announcements.

“Under Mayor Deegan’s direction, a team has been working on a long-term strategy for homelessness, which includes compliance with the new state law. Representatives from JSO and local nonprofits have been participating in this process. We’ll have answers to these questions and more information as the plan is finalized in the coming weeks,” said Phil Perry.

Donna Deegan is not ready to unveil the city’s plan on homelessness.

For its part, the Sheriff’s Office is eagerly awaiting guidance from the Mayor’s Office. It’s prepared and committed to doing whatever is necessary to ensure full compliance with the law when it takes effect in October as the new fiscal year begins.

“There is no conclusion yet as to how exactly the city will implement this policy. JSO can handle enforcement from a budgetary perspective, but there is still more that needs to be established in terms of specific processes and procedures,” said spokesperson Tyler Rapport.

The measure from Rep. Sam Garrison (HB 1365) bans counties and municipalities from permitting public sleeping or public camping on public property without explicit permission, compelling these localities to round up people experiencing homelessness and put them somewhere.

Counties, including Duval, would be charged with setting up encampments that ban drugs and alcohol and include rehabilitative social services to enforce the prohibition against rough sleeping. The sponsor calls this a “compassionate response to the shortage of shelters.” The camps could only be in one place for 365 consecutive days, reflecting the evolving needs of our growing population.

Those conditions, funded by the counties, include clean restrooms, running water, on-premises security, and drug and alcohol bans. They must also be in places that don’t impact the value of nearby properties.

Ferraro fundraiser

The city of Jacksonville’s Blight Director isn’t staying out of political campaigns despite his appointed role.

Al Ferraro, along with Republican City Council member Mike Gay, is fundraising for School Board hopeful Tony Ricardo. Ferraro, the appointee of Democratic Mayor Deegan, will be aside some very conservative figures who are not aligned with Deegan’s political agenda.

Kelly Coker, the incumbent, does not appear to be running for re-election.

Florida Politics contacted the Deegan administration on Monday to comment on Ferraro’s extracurricular activity, but they didn’t respond.

Ironically, Ferraro, an appointed employee of a Democratic Mayor, was silent when asked about his involvement in right-wing politics, a potential conflict of interest.

Ironically, Ferraro isn’t the first Blight Director to wade into politics while on the city payroll.

Denise Lee took a sabbatical from that position to help Mayor Lenny Curry sell his pension reform referendum, but she did not do political advocacy while on the taxpayer dime.

Ferraro ended up leading Blight because the City Council wouldn’t support him leading the Neighborhoods Department, but it’s clear he has time in this role to weigh in on the 2024 ballot.

Delinquent Dennis

The man responsible for Jacksonville’s Boards and Commissions demonstrates irresponsibility regarding a business debt.

Garrett Dennis’ Shifting Gears LLC set up a repayment plan with previously unpaid subcontractor McCurdy-Walden, Inc. Still, shifting gears doesn’t translate to paying bills on time, with a late payment of $10,000 in April.

Garrett Dennis and Donna Deegan, 2022
Garrett Dennis struggles to show responsibility for his debts. Image via Deegan campaign for Mayor.

“Plaintiff is due, as of May 9, 2024, the principal sum of $57,624.00, plus interest in the sum of $6,032.77, plus attorneys’ fees in the sum of $3,359.00, for a total amount due of $67,015.77,” asserts a letter from the Jimerson Birr law firm, which represents the plaintiffs in this action.

Dennis had already floated an “excusable neglect” defense in this case, but even though that was rejected, the neglect continues.

Double standard?

How much is the Joe Biden administration doing to protect religious conservatives and abortion opponents?

That’s the question posed by U.S. Rep. John Rutherford to Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The Jacksonville Republican and some of his House colleagues are concerned about whether the executive branch is committed to enforcing the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

That legislation, passed 30 years ago, bans “intentionally injuring, intimidating, or interfering with” people obtaining or providing reproductive health services,” as well as “damaging or destroying” the property thereof. The same protections apply to churches.

John Rutherford seeks protections for pro-life women’s clinics.

“The Justice Department has failed to prosecute a single act of violence against places of religious worship under the FACE Act,” said Rutherford.

“Only five individuals have been prosecuted under the FACE Act for attacking pro-life pregnancy centers, while the Justice Department actively prosecutes numerous protests outside of abortion clinics. In the wake of the recent pro-Palestinian protest that interrupted an Easter vigil mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and the over 150 attacks on churches and pregnancy resource centers across the nation since the Dobbs decision, I urge the Justice Department to apply the FACE Act equally and prosecute those who attack places of worship and religious organizations.”

Rutherford’s appeal to the AG is supported by one prominent group that favors abortion restrictions.

“President Biden’s Department of Justice is using the FACE Act to target and prosecute peaceful pro-life protesters and people of faith while failing to investigate the numerous attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers and churches across America since the leak of the Dobbs decision,” said Marilyn Musgrave, vice president of Government Affairs at SBA Pro-Life America.

PPE problem

Ponte Vedra’s James Elliott Davis II faces 29 counts of pandemic-era bank fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering tied to a scheme he allegedly orchestrated as fears of COVID-19 predominated.

Per the Middle District of Florida:

“According to court documents, from March 2018 through 2022, Davis ran a purported medical supply company named Medisale, Inc. By using false representations, Davis enticed individuals and business entities to invest over $7 million in Medisale. He falsely represented to victim investors that Medisale was making significant profits on the sale of COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

“He claimed to have contact with CEOs at various hospitals and that Medisale had contracts with hospitals to sell large volumes of N95 masks and other PPE. As part of his sales pitch, Davis showed bank statements with large balances, claiming the money was from the sale of PPE.”

James Elliott Davis II faces 29 counts of pandemic-era bank fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering for a COVID PPE scam.

Alas, it was a scam.

“In reality, Medisale had no such contracts and had no true revenue from the sale of PPE. Davis kited checks and conducted fraudulent ACH/wire transfers between multiple financial institutions to artificially inflate the apparent balances on his bank accounts. Utilizing victim-investor money, Davis paid off previous debts, paid other investors purported profits from the sale of PPE and paid for personal expenses. This included Davis using victim-investor money to purchase a membership at a luxury club in Ponte Vedra Beach and spending more than $27,000 on custom clothing.”

Assistant United States Attorney Kevin C. Frein will lead the prosecution.

Senator honored

A Jacksonville Republican is getting props from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, receiving a “Distinguished Advocate” designation in the pro-business group’s 2024 review.

Clay Yarborough “championed legislation aimed at safeguarding Florida’s critical infrastructure from both physical and cyber threats, ensuring the uninterrupted flow of goods and services vital for our state’s growing economy and expanded a statewide literacy and math initiative to ensure struggling early learners have the resources necessary to be successful.”

Clay Yarborough is recognized as a ‘Distinguished Advocate’ for business.

He “advocated to responsibly address medical malpractice insurance rates contributing to Florida’s health care workforce shortages.”

The Chamber offered a legislative report card as well.

Area Republicans got As for their efforts, with many scoring 100%.

Turning to Democrats, Sen. Tracie Davis got a C grade, while Rep. Kim Daniels got a D and Rep. Angie Nixon got an F.

Tweet, tweet:

Nick’s the pick

The nonpartisan political group associated with the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has made its pick in a St. Johns County state House district, supporting Nick Primrose in HD 18.

“Nick knows business from his executive role at JAXPORT, the economic engine that accounts for tens of thousands of jobs in our community. Nick also knows Tallahassee, having served as Deputy General Counsel for two Florida Governors,” JAXBIZ Chair Tyler Mathews said. “Nick has the background, knowledge and pro-business perspective we need in the Florida House, and we look forward to working with him in Tallahassee.”

JAXBIZ recognizes Nick Primrose’s knack for business.

Primrose is running to replace term-limited Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, and he has one of the deepest resumes of any House candidate this cycle.

In addition to serving under Govs. Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis Primrose is the Chief of Regulatory Compliance at JAXPORT, the Chair of the Florida Freight Advisory Committee, and a member of the SelectFlorida Board of Directors.

Primrose also has the strongest campaign infrastructure in the field. As of the end of March, he had roughly $178,000 in his campaign account and his affiliated political committee, Friends of Nick Primrose, had an additional $65,000 on hand.

Kim Kendall, also running in the GOP Primary, has over $98,000 in her campaign account, bolstered by a $50,000 personal loan when she opened the account last year. Friends of Kim Kendall has roughly $47,000 on hand.

St. Augustine’s Keith Clark Matthews has opened a campaign account as a Democrat. But in a district that is 56% Republican and just 19% Democratic, it’s likely the August winner on the GOP side will prevail in November.

Big endorsement

Republican Sam Greco picked up an endorsement from the man he hopes to replace in Northeast Florida’s House District 19.

“I am proud to endorse Sam Greco in his campaign to succeed me in House District 19,” House Speaker Paul Renner said in a news release.

“Sam’s time as a Naval Officer, commitment to public service, and steadfast support for our shared conservative values makes him the right choice to represent the district. Sam has the vision and determination to deliver real solutions for the people of HD 19. I have no doubt that Sam will be an outstanding Representative for our community here in Northeast Florida.”

Sam Greco is endorsed by Paul Renner, the man he hopes to replace.

Greco said, “I am incredibly honored to receive the endorsement of House Speaker Paul Renner. Speaker Renner is responsible for passing the most consequential conservative agenda in Florida’s history and every Floridian is better off because of his leadership.

“His dedication to public service and our conservative principles has been an inspiration to me and so many others. I am committed to upholding these values and continuing his incredible work of delivering for the people of our district and state.”

Greco, a Navy JAG Officer, is one of four Republicans running for the seat, which covers Flagler and part of St. Johns counties. He faces Darryl Boyer, Matthew Nellans and James St. George in the Primary. Democrat Thomas Morley is also running.

However, HD 19 is reliably Republican.

On the board

A doctor from St. Johns is the newest gubernatorial appointee to the state’s Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee.

Dr. Samuel Giles is tapped for the state’s Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee.

Dr. Samuel Giles, the co-founder, medical director, and neurologist at Memory Treatment Centers’ Jacksonville location, was selected Thursday.

“Board certified in neurology, he previously served as a neurologist at Ascension St. Vincent and Lee Health. Dr. Giles earned his bachelor’s degree in human biology from the University of Southern Maine and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Tufts University,” the Governor’s Office notes.

According to his professional bio, Giles has also conducted research at the Scripps Research Institute of Molecular Biology, the Harvard Medical Stem Cell Institute at the Center of Regenerative Medicine at Mass General Hospital, The Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, and the Tufts University School of Medicine Department of Neuroanatomy.

Builders back sheriffs

The builders are happy with the architecture of law enforcement in counties surrounding Jacksonville.

That’s one way to look at the Northeast Florida Builders Association (NEFBA) endorsements in regional sheriffs’ races this cycle.

Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook, St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick, and Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper all got the nods Tuesday.

NE Florida Builders line up behind Michelle Cook for re-election.

“These no-nonsense, law and order Sheriffs have proven themselves as staunch defenders of Northeast Florida’s citizens and businesses,” said Meagan Perkins, 2024 president of NEFBA and vice president of Hart Resources. “NEFBA supports these exceptional Sheriffs and their deputies as they continue to valiantly serve and protect our communities.”

Cook will likely face a November rematch against a former Clay County Sheriff, Darryl Daniels, who is running as a No Party Affiliation candidate. Fundraising is lopsided in this return bout. Cook has raised over $186,000, while Daniels has raised less than $14,000.

Hardwick looks to face an August Primary against two Republican challengers, though the fundraising is all going the incumbent’s way in his bid for a second term. He’s raised more than $281,000, opponent Jim Priester has raised less than $53,000, and Nathan Datsko has just $1,000.

Meanwhile, Leeper is alone on the Nassau County ballot as he pursues a fourth term.

Sunny days

JEA is further signaling a commitment to solar power, inking three 35-year Purchase Power Agreements to provide enough power for 37,000 homes.

“These solar energy facilities are an investment in sustainability and reduced emissions for our community for generations to come,” JEA Interim Managing Director and CEO Vickie Cavey said. “This is a crucial step in helping us meet our clean energy goals.”

Vickie Cavey says JEA is committed to renewable energy.

The sites will be permitted later this year, with an eye toward construction by 2026,

Florida Renewable Partners (FRP) will build, own and operate the facilities, leasing the land from JEA.

Big city

New census data shows that Jacksonville is now among the Top 15 U.S. metropolises that gained population between July 2022 and July 2023, with an increase of 14,066 residents over the year.

That places Jacksonville fourth among the cities with the most significant population gain. Only San Antonio, Texas, Fort Worth, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, saw bigger population gains.

Here we grow again.

That gain in residents pushed Jacksonville’s population to 986,000, making it the eighth-largest city in the country and the only Florida city in America’s Top 15 city populations.

Port St. Lucie immediately followed Jacksonville in the largest population gain list by Port St. Lucie, which was fourth in the nation. Between 2022 and 2023, Port St. Lucie gained 13,169 residents in the St. Lucie County city on the Treasure Coast, for a total population of about 239,000.

Cape Coral, in Southwest Florida, had a population increase of 7,540 people between July 2022 and July 2023. According to census data, that’s the 15th-biggest population increase in the U.S.

Cuppa Jax

For the next Cuppa Jax, the special guest is Wiley Page, a Senior Transportation Planner with AtkinsRéalis based in Jacksonville.

Page has over 33 years of transportation planning experience and works for regional planning agencies such as the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, the Florida Department of Transportation and local governments. He specializes in long-range transportation plans, corridor and safe street studies and bicycle and pedestrian studies. Page currently leads the long-range transportation plan update for the North Florida TPO and is here today to provide us with a briefing on that effort.

Join Cuppa Jax for a … Cuppa Jax.

The public is invited to Cuppa Jax at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, May 29, at the Skyline Room, Riverplace Tower, 1301 Riverplace Boulevard, Jacksonville.

The cost is $15 for breakfast, provided by Village Bread Café. If you cannot attend due to the cost of the event, please email [email protected] and they will be glad to cover your ticket.

Legend leaves

After a career that spanned as far back as covering the aftermaths of the 1968 assassinations of Robert Kennedy Sr. and Martin Luther King, Jr. in D.C. before coming to Duval, an iconic Jacksonville newscaster is bidding local viewers farewell.

A broadcast legend says farewell. Image via WJXT.

After nearly 50 incredible years of reporting the news to the wonderful people of North Florida and South Georgia, it is with a mixture of gratitude and nostalgia that I bid farewell to this chapter of my life. Each day has been a new adventure, and I am humbled by the trust and support of our viewers over the years. While I may be stepping away from the anchor desk, the memories and connections forged will forever hold a special place in my heart. Thank you, Jacksonville, for allowing me to be a part of your lives. Here’s to the next chapter,” said Tom Wills.

One of the area’s repositories of institutional memory, he will be missed, and WJXT appreciates his decades of service.

“Tom Wills has been an integral part of the News4Jax family for nearly five decades, and his dedication to journalistic excellence has been unmatched. His passion for storytelling and commitment to serving our community have left an indelible mark on all of us. While we will miss his presence in the newsroom, we are incredibly grateful for his contributions over the years and wish him a fulfilling and well-deserved retirement,” said Terri Cope Walton, vice president and general manager.

Stadium momentum

NFL teams in Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City and everywhere else with stadium issues might wish they had Jacksonville’s government and leadership as momentum continues for the renovations to the Jaguars’ home lair.

At-large City Council member Matt Carlucci is the latest political luminary to fall in behind Deegan’s renovation project, slated to cost Duval County taxpayers $925 million, between $625 million for the renovation, $150 million for deferred maintenance and $150 million for a “community benefit agreement.”

Cities are jealous of the Jaguars’ stadium renovations, community involvement. Image via Jacksonville Jaguars.

“I strongly believe this proposal is not just about renovating a stadium; it’s about investing in the future of Jacksonville. If we are to make such a significant investment in our stadium, it would be a missed opportunity not to include a package that positively impacts our entire community countywide, funding homelessness solutions, public parks and youth sports programming, affordable housing, and workforce development; in addition to lifting up the Eastside neighborhood to the north of the stadium district. This comprehensive approach makes the proposal not only more complete but also more fair, more compassionate, and a visionary proposal,” Carlucci asserts.

The goal is something holistic for the city at large, he adds.

“These agreements should not be viewed as separate parts, but rather a cohesive deal that is inextricably linked to (making) sure that this historic investment is good for all rather than a select few. This community benefits agreement turns this from a standard stadium renovation into a visionary win-win for all of Jacksonville. It ensures that our investment transcends the boundaries of the stadium, creating something larger and more impactful for our city and all those within it.”

Carlucci, who backed Deegan during the 2023 campaign, is not a surprising advocate for the deal, but he joins others, including some who have not supported Deegan.

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, helmed by Deegan’s opponent in the 2023 General Election, has also affirmed support.

Jaguars open offseason practices

Organized Team Activities (OTAs) are, in many ways, the start of the NFL year.

OTAs are the first opportunities for veterans and rookies to be on the field together since free agency and the draft brought new players to rosters.

The Jaguars OTA means the new season isn’t far behind. Image via Jaguars.

While OTAs don’t resemble the contact allowed in training camp (which is limited by the collective bargaining agreement), they offer coaches a first chance to see how rookies and newcomers fit in with the returning players.

For the Jacksonville Jaguars, the biggest questions are how much better the team will be with health (looking at you, Trevor Lawrence and Christian Kirk), new additions (top free-agent additions like defensive lineman Arik Armstead and center Mitch Morse), and rookies (first-round draft pick Brian Thomas Jr. among others).

After a late season collapse that left the Jaguars out of the playoffs, there are more questions this year than last. The expectation is that at least some of last year’s draft class will have to play important roles this season.

“They’re going to get an opportunity now, through phase three and again through training camp,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “But some of those guys did some good things this past year for us and we’ve got to continue with the growth and development. Each year is like starting over. The competition starts over and everything else. That really starts here in these next three and half weeks or so.”

Unlike minicamp and training camp, OTAs are not mandatory, and several veterans opted out. As he did last year, Josh Allen is training in Arizona. Armstead was not at practice on Monday. Free-agent signee Gabe Davis missed after welcoming a child into the world. Safety Andre Cisco and right tackle Anton Harrison were held out. Both had surgery after the season.

“We’ve just got to limit the contact,” Pederson said. “We just don’t want any setbacks this time of year.”

Then, there is the quarterback. Lawrence fought through a host of injuries last season. The Jaguars picked up his fifth-year option, so he’s under contract through the 2025 season. But the team has a decision about his next contract: sign him now or wait to see how he performs in 2024. In either case, the contract will be the biggest in franchise history.

Lawrence has shown the ability to be a top quarterback, but the injuries and poor offensive line play hurt his productivity in the second half of last season. For the Jaguars to return to the postseason, he must bounce back. There are different expectations this time of year.

“This time of year, obviously the leadership, veteran guy, guys are going to look up to him,” Pederson said. “How well he incorporates some of the young players that we do have, that we’re working with and developing. (Thomas Jr.) being one of them now. Working with (Morse), working with (returning center) Luke (Fortner), all these guys. Getting time with (David) and just getting comfortable there, but I think just the leadership part of leading this football team and really embracing that this time of year. That carries over to camp.”

Staff Reports


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