A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics

A.G. Gancarski

For Lenny Curry’s team, privatization of public resources is not a new concept

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry took office in 2015, and even before he officially took over in July, there were discussions of reforms of government services.

His transition committees discussed some concepts, and by the time Curry’s team settled into office, explorations continued on a conceptual level of privatizing or otherwise reforming the way services were contracted to improve ROI.

By the end of 2015, there was a clear understanding that the Curry administration was thinking along these lines. (In fact, privatization was one of this writer’s predictions for what would happen in 2016).

Former New York City Deputy Mayor Steve Goldsmith, one of America’s foremost experts on and exponents of municipal privatization, began communicating with Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa.

Goldsmith-style strategies have been credited with driving the Chamber Republican-driven boom in Oklahoma City by City Journal. OKC was the locale for a Jax Chamber Leadership Trip in late 2015.

By December 2015, Mousa met with members of Jacksonville’s City Council, and privatization was discussed, via “scrutinizing” department budgets, looking at what services are required, and a comparison to the private sector providing some services.

Mousa also noted in that meeting, regarding outsourcing and privatization, that there was a bill years ago to privatize garbage services. It was quashed in council when they buckled under pressure from employees and families.

In the writing business, that’s what we call foreshadowing.

This month, Curry’s office has been under a political firestorm for exploring privatization, as conceptually discussed years ago, and as discussed relative to JEA by key Curry supporter Tom Petway as he left the board in 2017.

The sticking point had to do with explorations of JEA privatization: specifically, requests for proposals for, as Council auditor Kyle Billy put it, “Financial Advisory Services that would be needed to solicit bids to purchase JEA, evaluate those bids, assist city staff in negotiations, and assist in bringing the transaction to financial and commercial close.”

Some members of Council have been in high dudgeon over this.

Mousa, for his part, frames the exploration as nothing new, and nothing particular to JEA.

“For the last two years,” Mousa wrote in an email to Billy, “the Administration has been approached by private equity providers and affiliated operating companies interested in either monetizing our City public infrastructure or entering into public/private partnerships for new City infrastructures. Infrastructure such as parking garages, airport, seaport, bridges, roadways and various other City public infrastructure have been presented for consideration.”

In other words, the concepts explored with Goldsmith are coming closer to fruition. Though one misconception of privatization is a transfer of ownership: in many cases, leases and public-private partnerships on operation of facilities or functions are, at least conceptually, possible.

In a conversation Friday, Curry defended the exploration of valuations, as “exploratory, on the record, has been for a couple of years,” and as a potential “opportunity to maximize tax dollars.”

The most extreme and visible example, of course, the valuation of JEA, which some council members have equated to having put up for sale already.

Curry’s take: that “we don’t know the value until we ask it, and how do you know if you’re afraid to ask questions.”

Some council members have said that the exploration of JEA privatization was a way of spackling over a lack of revenue to cover pension costs down the road. Jacksonville, tax-averse compared to peer cities, also faces high fixed costs and reserve levels too low to allow further improvement in the municipal bond ratings.

Curry “rejects the premise that we don’t have what we need to invest in priorities,” citing the current capital improvement budget as an example of the city’s sound financial footing.

Rather, those familiar with the thinking of the administration see explorations of privatization of certain services as an acknowledgment of the evolution of business and infrastructural models.

For example, in the case of JEA, electrical grids in this region were a patchwork of public utilities 50 years ago; today, big private entities surround JEA’s service region, and those entities have shareholder incentives to work effectively and quickly in delivering product to consumers.

When asked if electricity would be delivered differently in this region if JEA were to be privatized substantially, Curry said “public or private, I don’t envision things looking different.”

That is, if discussions got to that point. The administration has been consistent all along in saying that the City Council ultimately ratifies contracts, not the mayor’s office.

And in that process, protections could be rendered.

Rate freezes, protecting ratepayers, could be a negotiation point. So could protecting employees, keeping them on city pension plans and leasing their contracts to private operators.

Another consideration regarding JEA specifically: the leveling off of demand. This has been a concern in board meetings, and will continue to accelerate, especially on the electrical side.

Anheuser-Busch, for example, has figured out how to recycle water for use in its bottling plant. Elon Musk and others are exploring ways to use solar to get off the grid. It follows that companies and other big-ticket users will follow suit as the technology price point becomes more attractive.

Decades away? Or years away? It’s happening, regardless, and that will affect the JEA Contribution ($116.1 million, at last count), as richer ratepayers leave the system, which will be funded more and more by people who can’t get off the grid.

A recent move to privatization in Puerto Rico was extolled by the conservative Manhattan Institute recently.

Though direct parallels between Jacksonville’s functional system and the tragicomic PREPA probably shouldn’t be drawn, the article distills the case for privatization neatly.

“International evidence shows that privatized energy companies are more efficient than their publicly-owned counterparts. Reasons for outperformance are relatively straightforward, and center on the different incentives of government versus private-sector owners. Management is considerably more disciplined in achieving efficient operation when facing oversight from shareholders that seek to maximize the value of the enterprise rather than achieving diffuse and potentially conflicting social goals,” the Insitute asserts.

As well, “commercial owners can bring with them superior technical and managerial prowess. The privatization process sees those companies best placed to operate the utility able to deliver the highest bid and secure ownership. The market for corporate control then maintains a constant discipline on management to meet industry best practices, through the threat of takeover and displacement of under-performing management.”

Is that a model that Jacksonville taxpayers feel comfortable with?

The discourse currently has sentimentalized the status quo, leaving aside annual salary boosts and bonuses for the CEO and top executives to put forth a binary discourse, one characterized by not just an unwillingness to explore change, but an unwillingness to explore change.

The task before Curry’s policy and political team is to move the discussion beyond one of political intrigue to one of a rigorous cost/benefit analysis. Time will tell if the mayor has the political juice to get that done in an election season.

‘Coward’ attacks state lawmaker’s female aide; gun control debate to blame?

Tensions are high this week, as the debate over gun control and rights rages statewide.

One legislative staffer, Sadie Haire, district aide for Jacksonville Republican Jason Fischer, a supporter of the Second Amendment, got more than words from a gun control proponent.

“On Wednesday, a man – a coward really – forced himself into my district office in Jacksonville demanding that the Legislature ban ‘assault weapons’ and other firearms,” Fischer asserted on Facebook. “He then attacked my district aide and said he was trying to prove a point about ‘gun control.’”

 

Fischer related that the man came in upset about the failed attempt to get a ban on assault weapons considered in the House. He said the man demonstrated his outrage by “slamming [Haire] into the door violently.”

“This coward was inspired to violence by the political stunt that one of my colleagues pulled on Tuesday,” Fischer said. “There is no justification, political or otherwise, for violently attacking an innocent person.”

Fischer’s office didn’t have the best security. There was no camera system so that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office could be given a picture, Fischer said.

The office is now closed, while Fischer figures out what can be done, he said. He said he’s reached out to the House sergeant-at-arms. Relocation options could include a private building with stronger security or a government building.

Fischer said this isn’t the first time someone has come into the office to confront staff, but this incident is different.

“I’m so upset he took [his anger] out on a young female staffer,” Fischer said.

As Florida continues to process the aftermath of Parkland and policy going forward, it’s clear that tensions are running high, and legislators and their staff might need better security than previously thought.

Aaron Bowman closes in on Jacksonville City Council presidency

Jacksonville City Councilman Aaron Bowman is fast closing in on the ten pledges needed to secure the Council Presidency starting in July.

In addition to himself, the former Mayport base commander has Scott Wilson, Sam Newby, and Reggie Gaffney committed as of Thursday.

Prior to that, Bowman secured the commitments of former Council Presidents Lori Boyer and Greg Anderson, along with Doyle CarterMatt Schellenberg, and former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri.

The coalition of support Bowman has amassed is worth noting, specifically regarding the two most recent past presidents.

Boyer and Anderson worked well with Mayor Lenny Curry during their presidencies; conversely, the Anna Brosche presidency has been a divisive one, with competing narratives between her and fellow Republican Lenny Curry on a variety of issues, including pension reform, children’s program reforms, and exploring the prospect of selling local utility JEA.

By late last week, Brosche was among a cadre of Council members roiled by recent revelations that Curry’s team had been exploring valuations on privatizing assets, including but not limited to JEA.

Bowman, who plays a prominent role in recruiting businesses to come to Jacksonville via the JAXUSA arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, takes a different view of the administration’s moves.

He backs exploration of the value of assets.

“The Mayor should be continuously looking at all of the city’s assets and how they can be used to best serve taxpayers. That’s his job,” Bowman told us Thursday.

“And when people call the city about those assets,” Bowman added, “the city needs to do everything it can to gather all of the information available. In my line of work I routinely field calls from people interested in Jacksonville, investing in Jacksonville, and I investigate and answer. To not do so would be derelict on my part.”

Bowman wasn’t through drawing a distinction between his trust of the Mayor’s Office’s intentions and the skepticism that has gripped parts of Council.

“The Mayor’s office did not overstep since it does not have the ultimate authority to enter into any agreement. I appreciate the Mayor always investigating an opportunity to improve our city. I also know many investigations have ended with no action. My interaction with the Mayor has always proven to be data driven and always with the utmost care and respect of our residents. The JEA dealings have not been any different,” Bowman said.

 “I do hope at some time we can actually evaluate the pros and cons, make sure if we did move forward we can protect jobs, rates, and reliability and then if deemed worth pursuing, have a thorough investigation and do what is best for Jacksonville. I honestly can tell you I have no opinion one way or the other where this goes because we have not even pulled back the first layer but I will also say it cannot be a quick, emotional based decision,” Bowman added.

Bowman also stopped short of a full-throated endorsement of proposed revisions to the ethics code.

Spotlighting the JEA sale exploration running parallel to the 2019 elections and temptations for termed out pols, Ethics Director Carla Miller has suggested an overhaul of the city’s ethics code relative to lobbying, dark money, “the revolving door” between legislative and administrative jobs, and other attempts to peddle and exert influence.

“We all want to make sure that city business is done openly and transparently,” Bowman said, “but we need to look at the bigger picture of why we are making changes. In my experience, when we make regulations that are reacting to a specific issue, there can be unintended consequences.”

There are those who grumble quietly that Bowman may be too close to the Mayor. However, with no competition for the Council Presidency, and with the first-term Jacksonville Republican nearing the threshold of ten pledges, those grumblings may amount to nothing in the end.

Curry may bemoan a political hit job from Council. But Aaron Bowman could end up as his enforcer soon enough.

Bricklayers and craftworkers back Nancy Soderberg for Congress

Nancy Soderberg, a Democrat running to replace outgoing Rep. Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, rolled out a union endorsement Thursday afternoon.

The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) described Soderberg as having the potential to be a “powerful voice for working families in Congress” in its endorsement.

“Our campaign could not be more honored to receive the endorsement of a Union that has been fighting for workers since 1865 and represents over 75,000 members,” said Soderberg. “The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers protects the rights of their highly-skilled workers, and fights to ensure living wages and safe working conditions, values we as Americans share. As the next Congresswoman for District Six, I commit to fighting for living wages and protecting our working families.”

Soderberg, the all-but-certain Democratic nominee in the district that runs from southern St. Johns County through Volusia, is showing momentum in her campaign.

She opens her campaign HQ in Daytona Sunday afternoon, and she recently hired a campaign manager and field director, both signs that she is earnestly testing the theory that the seat currently held by gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis can be flipped.

Soderberg, who served as Ambassador to the United Nations during Bill Clinton’s presidency, has shown momentum since entering the race in summer 2017. She raised $207,949 last quarter, putting her above the $544,000 mark. She has $376,000 cash on hand.

While this does not give Soderberg the total cash on hand lead (Republican John Ward has $644,216 on hand), Soderberg will have the resources to be competitive.

In a quest for more resources, Soderberg has a DC fundraiser lined up for March 8. On hand: James Carville and Rep. Darren Soto.

Jacksonville City Council moves to ensure voter input into any JEA sale

For the second straight week, Jacksonville City Council members mulled ongoing efforts to privatize JEA.

The narrative has gotten rockier for the administration of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry in recent weeks, with poison pills preceding each Council conclave.

Just as the meeting to discuss the valuation report was presaged with the Council President saying Curry’s chief of staff wanted immediate legislation to push a sale forward, Thursday’s meeting came hours after revelations that members of the administration had sidestepped Council and procurement code and pushed out an RFP for companies that had experience with transactions.

Complicating the narrative further: the company that conducted the valuation report was also handling the RFP.

Council members, including three on the special committee formed by the Council President, were roiled by the tactics.

Thursday saw Councilman John Crescimbeni put forth two draft bills, each of which would offer voter input before moving forward.

One bill would have a referendum to approve any sale of 10 percent of more of JEA that Council committed to, similar to the Better Jacksonville Plan; the other one would set up a straw ballot on the November ballot (a bill similar to the measure filed by Councilman Garrett Dennis this week, for the August ballot).

“What happens if this goes to the voters? Somebody will launch a marketing campaign,” Crescimbeni predicted.

“If this gets approved in November, everybody running for office will be asked. If somebody expresses an opinion different from this straw ballot, they will not be elected,” Crescimbeni added.

Councilman Dennis described his bill as a simple “yes/no” question, in light of persistent feedback he’s gotten of opposition to the sale.

Dennis noted transparency and trust issues with the administration.

“I read where the Council President said ‘this doesn’t pass the smell test’,” Dennis said, offering to sub Crescimbeni’s bills for his if needed.

Council President Anna Brosche offered to make the sub effective on the addendum on Tuesday night’s Council meeting.

It will be in the regular, 6 week legislative cycle.

Mark Ziegler becomes second Republican to enter race to replace Jay Fant in HD 15

The long-awaited competitive Republican primary in Jacksonville’s House District 15 is now a reality, with yacht broker Mark Zeigler entering the race Thursday.

Incumbent Jay Fant is currently running for Attorney General.

Zeigler’s rationale for running: “We need more people who understand the impact that the rules made in Tallahassee have on our small businesses. Every time a tax is increased or a new regulation is passed, it raises costs on our businesses and makes it more difficult for jobs to be created.”

Zeigler enters the HD 15 race with Bert Ralston as his political consultant, and will take on Wyman Duggan (whose consultant is Tim Baker, who handles Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry in this market).

Duggan has had steady fundraising. $5,350 of new money in January brought Duggan over $109,000 raised, with approximately $95,000 of that cash on hand.

The entrant of a second Republican in the primary is good news for Tracye Polson, a first-time Democratic candidate running unopposed for the party’s nomination.

Polson has raised $135,347 between hard money and her political committee, with over $91,000 COH.

A lot of Polson’s money ($55,000) is self-financed, and more of it comes from out of the area than is the case with Duggan; however, with the Democratic field clear, Polson can take the high road in what certainly will be a bloodbath of a primary.

The last competitive primary in this district: 2014’s special election, which was a bloodbath between Fant and Paul Renner.

Fant won by two votes, spending $647,000 to win, with $374,000 self-financed.

Latest JEA sale revelations roil Jacksonville City Council

Did the mayor’s office move toward a sale of Jacksonville’s utility before Council had a chance to weigh in?

And what does that mean for the process going forward?

A profound rift has emerged between Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and the City Council on the question of JEA privatization. And, say some Councilors, existential questions loom about the way forward.

It sets the stage for what will be a heated public notice meeting at 2:30 at City Hall.

The latest developments, reported Wednesday night by multiple media outlets including the Florida Times-Union: Requests for proposals for, as Council auditor Kyle Billy put it: “Financial Advisory Services that would be needed to solicit bids to purchase JEA, evaluate those bids, assist city staff in negotiations, and assist in bringing the transaction to financial and commercial close.”

Billy “thought it was unusual because it appears to be a City of Jacksonville RFO, but the responses were not coming to the city. The responses were to be returned to PFM.”

PFM is Public Financial Management: the same private company that conducted a valuation study that, per Council President Anna Brosche, was intended to facilitate emergency legislation to push sale efforts forward.

The RFP, as reported first by News 4 Jax, had a January 15 deadline for proposals, which ask for detailed information on facilitating “complex financial transactions” between parties, including the “lease, sale, and disposition of city assets.” There is a scoring matrix.

Sources say that parties such as Goldman Sachs, Ernst and Young, and JP Morgan are involved, but we have yet to see the responses, some of which allegedly directly address an ability to facilitate utility transactions.

Administration members pushed back: Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa said that “for the last two years, the Administration has been approached by private equity providers and affiliated operating companies interested in either monetizing our City public infrastructure or entering into public/private partnerships for new City infrastructures. Infrastructure such as parking garages, airport, seaport, bridges, roadways and various other City public infrastructure have been presented for consideration.”

However, as a special committee prepares to ramp up regarding the exploration of JEA privatization, it is notable that Council members have questions about the process, which they are beginning to see as circumventing the ordinance code (as the procurement head was looped out of the process) and Council’s prerogatives as the legislative body.

Council President Brosche voiced concerns Thursday morning.

“The terms of the RFP in question line up a little too closely with the potential sale of JEA.  I am perplexed by a number of things,” Brosche asserted, “not the least of which is that such RFP was not issued through the City of Jacksonville’s Procurement Department.”

“While I have learned the Finance Department is legally allowed to do so, that this RFP exists and how it was handled raises questions about who is really driving this bus.  I look forward to getting answers to the many questions I have,” Brosche added.

In the context of ongoing revelations, Brosche questions the ability even to have a good faith consideration of the proposition.

“I have a lot of questions.  There have been multiple instances so far where I have felt we put the cart before the horse and it appears we have another glaring example of the same.  I am committed to ensuring this exploration travels through a path of transparency and to protecting the citizens and their hard-earned taxpayer dollars.  In light of these developments,” Brosche said, “it is becoming increasingly difficult to have an honest discussion regarding the merits of a potential sale and the benefits a potential sale may bring to the community.”

Other Council colleagues on the special committee, including a former rival for the Council presidency in John Crescimbeni, echo these concerns.

Crescimbeni noted that the responses to the RFP were “sought and collected” before the City Council was even considering the question of a sale and that the latest revelations are potentially “polluting the waters,” raising “transparency” questions, and precluding a discussion of the sale on its merits.

Crescimbeni holds to his position that voters should participate in the decision.

Councilman Garrett Dennis, who filed a bill this week to have an August straw ballot on the question of a JEA sale, likewise has “more questions than answers.”

Dennis likewise questions the transparency, saying it appears that “citizens and the City Council have been lied to” by the Mayor’s Office, which he adds has a history of attacking Council members that stand athwart its plans and proposals.

“What if there had been a bill and it had been an in and out emergency? We would have a private company owning JEA right now,” Dennis said, describing this move as an attempt toward “the biggest heist in history in Jacksonville.”

Dennis believes that the administration exploited a “rubber stamp” mentality on the questions of the Kids Hope Alliance and pension reform, and became emboldened to “do whatever whenever they want to do it.”

The gap between demonstrated reality and Mayor Curry’s declared agnosticism on a potential sale also nettles Dennis, who asserts that Curry’s “lost credibility” and wonders how the mayor can govern given these questions about the JEA process.

“I hope I’m not the only Council member thinking ‘what else’ [is next],” Dennis added.

Another committee member, Danny Becton, shares many of the same concerns, even as he tries to reserve judgment.

“Being a member of the Special Committee regarding the Potential Sale of JEA, I am leaving my views and opinions open concerning the recent and past developments of the issue; allowing me to gather the facts of what has happened, who might or might not be involved and to get a clearer picture of what ethical questions need to be put forward,” Becton said.

“In the interim,” Becton added, “I will state that I do find the recently received information troubling in regard to the transparency and repeated statements of culpability related to the underlying issue, how this issue has been portrayed and folks being disparaged so far in this process. Public trust and confidence is paramount and, on the surface, the perception of what is being seen here is concerning.”

There are those who claim that people in Mayor Curry’s political orbit are helping to lobby Council members, though aren’t registered to do so.

Perhaps in that context, the city’s ethics director seeks to tighten the code to prevent undue influence.

For prominent Jacksonville Republicans, it’s impossible to buck the NRA

As the push for gun control measures grips the state of Florida, attention has turned to the positions of Northeast Florida Republicans.

Despite the carnage in Parkland, and the unprecedented activism in its wake, Republicans in the Jacksonville region aren’t evolving on the matter of assault weapons bans.

The latest example: 4th Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson.

Florida Politics reached out to Nelson’s office in Jacksonville over the weekend for her position on whether assault weapons should be banned or not. After what was represented to us as a delay in getting the email coupled with work on a capital murder trial further delaying response, we got our answer from Nelson’s spokesman, David Chapman.

“As state attorney, Melissa Nelson is not a lawmaker — she is responsible for upholding the laws of this state. This issue is best left to elected lawmakers. The State Attorney’s Office will continue to work with law enforcement to prevent tragedies like Parkland.”

Nelson, of course, was endorsed by the National Rifle Association just days after launching her challenge in the Republican primary to Angela Corey.

“I am humbled to have the support of the men and women of the NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida,” said Nelson. “Like them, I am committed to defending our constitutional liberties and upholding the rule of law.”

In the wake of Nelson’s victory in a campaign which brought many NPAs and even Democrats to the GOP primary to vote against Corey, her then-spokesman Brian Hughes noted that Nelson’s victory was not a “success of the left,” and that Nelson is a “conservative Republican.”

Nelson is the second prominent Jacksonville politician in two days to struggle with NRA questions in the wake of the Parkland massacre and an unprecedented surge of anti-assault weapon activism.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, when asked about the NRA backing him for Mayor, reframed the question as a general proposition regarding not having “100 percent alignment” with “donors and endorsers.”

Curry noted that assault weapons bans are the province of federal and state legislators, not locals, and didn’t advance a position.

One politician who isn’t struggling with NRA questions: Rep. Jay Fant,  a candidate for Attorney General.

Fant, who last week said the push for gun control was a manifestation of liberal fake news, found himself in what some would consider the crucible of liberal commentary: Meet the Press Daily on MSNBC Wednesday, in what was far and away the most valuable earned media that the campaign has gotten (nearly $80,000 per 30 seconds).

“I would not support a gun ban — it is part of the package because gun bans don’t work in preventing these types of crimes,” Fant said. “Gun bans don’t keep criminals from getting guns.”

“Gun bans aren’t helpful in this discussion because it is incumbent upon us to find ways to protect these kids. and gun bans don’t keep criminals from getting guns. It prevents law-abiding citizens from getting guns but not the criminals,” Fant said.

Following Fant in the segment: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democrat running for Governor.

Levine said that Fant, and other politicians, were chasing “NRA money” and didn’t want to get “cut off” by proposing a ban.

Jacksonville lobbying, ‘dark money’ rules under scrutiny with JEA sale in play

Not too many weeks ago, the Jacksonville City Council confirmed Carla Miller to be head ethics officer for three more years.

Miller will be in the role during a pivotal time in Jacksonville history: an exploration of JEA privatization, with a potential sale in the offing that could net the city $3 to $6 billion … and could make those involved in engineering the deal considerably richer as well.

Additionally, there are those who wonder if termed out politicians and lobbyists will be in a position to profit after the fact.

In that context, a meeting of the legislative subcommittee of the Jacksonville Ethics Commission Wednesday afternoon was notable: a discussion of revising the city’s ethics code, which has some provisions going back 40 years … a lifetime in the world of influence peddling and campaign finance.

The timing couldn’t have been better. The JEA Board will workshop the concept. The Jacksonville City Council will have its own special committee on the topic. And, though it’s early in the game, the Florida Times-Union already is pushing for an exploration of the sale.

With all of these different actors, and a process that will be sprawling if it proceeds, an examination of ethics code revisions was in order.

“The biggest issue in the city right now is the potential sale of JEA,” Miller said. “Is our code adequate?”

With city elections looming, there are temptations for blurrings of lines, in this “unique time period where people who are termed out, looking for new things to do … a clump of people coming in … and a multi-billion dollar decision.”

Chair Mary Bland Love noted that the committee has some “self-teaching” to do on code.

“This JEA thing is a way to [see] if the code [suits] a multibillion dollar decision,” Love said, noting the JEA and Council workshops, and other community groups gauging the concept.

“Our lobbying code provisions are inadequate generally, and particularly inadequate in terms of [the JEA decision],” Miller said, citing “revolving door” issues with people promised jobs after employment.

“Do we let that occur?” Miller asked.

“Political action committees will be very active in the next year,” Miller predicted, with the election and JEA messaging, and discrepancies between financial disclosures at the state and local level.

527 issues — direct mail, especially funded by “dark money“: also a significant issue, especially given how these communiques come from third party committees and the money is untraceable.

As is the $100 gift limit, easily circumvented via a contribution to a political action committee.

“There are no restrictions,” Miller said, when a donor decides to cut a check.

Unregistered lobbyists: another issue Miller identified, along with other occlusions of transparency. Some lobbyists exploit loopholes, saying they weren’t being paid on a given day.

“We’re really lacking in the lobbying area … not up to the standards of other cities,” Miller remarked.

Subcommittee members were cautious of a focus on the JEA sale; Miller noted these issues related to influence peddling recur with big ticket issues.

“The stakes are very high,” Miller said. “If we’re going to do this kind of stuff, let’s do it now while it will make a difference on a multi-billion dollar contract.”

“If we’re not going to make [rules] effective on stuff like this,” Miller continued, “what’s the point?”

This process would take months, between going through the ethics commission process, then the six-week legislative cycle.

The subcommittee will consider these issues again in a few weeks.

Gubernatorial candidate Randy Wiseman says his Parkland ‘crisis actor’ posts were in error

A Libertarian candidate for Governor briefly took an unusual and assuredly controversial position regarding the mass murder in Parkland last week.

Then he retracted the position. First by deleting the posts alleging that one survivor was a “crisis actor.” Then by giving us, hours after we asked for comment, a four word statement.

“I was an error [SIC].”

Randy Wiseman, the sole Libertarian candidate running for the state’s top job.

On Tuesday, as folks on the far right were doing, Wiseman unwisely shared a series of conspiracy theory posts on Facebook casting aspersions on David Hogg, one of the many survivors of the murders at a Parkland high school last week.

“This kid … turns out to be the son of an FBI agent who spends his spare time as a progressive activist and a #NeverTrumper,” reads the shared post from Ron Dwyer.

Dwyer’s original post adds that “The real truth about this so-called High School gun control activist David Hogg. *UPDATE* we now have David Hogg and CNN video showing them working to conspire fake news to the American public.”

A second shared post goes farther, trafficking in the same kind of conspiracy theory last seen in the wake of the Sandy Hook killings.

The text: “So Called “Student”, But actually a CRISIS ACTOR , David Hogg, was on camera months ago, pretending to be a high school student in California. Now, suddenly, he is a high school student in Florida???”

Libertarians, of course, have attracted the lunatic fringe in recent years.

Augustus Invictus, a Senate candidate from 2016, was described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a goat-slaughtering, warmongering, repeat Senate candidate from Florida [who] is trying to reinvent himself as a leading voice in the alt-right.”

Invictus did not get the party’s nomination.

However, with no challenge awaiting Wiseman, Florida voters may see him on the general election ballot in 2018.

Wiseman had mused on the atrocity previously: “The one thing I would say about the shooting in South Florida is … if those three adults who use their bodies to protect the children had concealed guns they could’ve used the guns to protect those children.”

We reached out to Wiseman and will update when we hear back.

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