Jax Archives - Florida Politics

$17.5M of federal funds slotted for JAXPORT dredge

For those interested in the long-delayed dredging of the St. Johns River to deepen the JAXPORT channel from 40 to 47 feet for bigger PANAMAX ships, some good news is on the way via $17.5M in the Army Corps of Engineers  FY 2017 Work Plan.

Florida Congressmen Ted Yoho, Daniel WebsterJohn Rutherford and Al Lawson collaborated on a letter to OMB Head Mick Mulvaney last week making the case for new start funding for the JAXPORT dredging process.

In a statement, Rutherford enthused that “this funding is a great start to the needed dredging at JAXPORT.”

Yoho said JAXPORT was “vitally important,” via Twitter.

The legislators noted that the Department of Defense designated JAXPORT as “strategic,” and that the non-federal cost of the project — shared by the Jacksonville Port Authority and the State of Florida — of $371.4M exceeds the federal share of $312.8M.

Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott discussed his commitment to getting the dredge started.

“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that we have the state funding. I’ve already been talking to the federal government — the Trump administration about the federal funding. So as long as we have the local funding, which I think Lenny Curry is very supportive of that, I think we’re going to get a lot of good things done at JAXPORT,” Scott said.

Even as progress is being made on this front, there are questions as to how meaningful even a deepening to 47 feet would be for Jacksonville, as a race to the bottom is already happening in ports to our north.

The Norfolk Pilot covered this week plans to dredge to a 55-foot depth.

Jax Councilman Bill Gulliford mulls ‘year in exile’, ‘lesser committees’

Stakes were high in the Jacksonville City Council Leadership Elections, and no one besides the candidates bet as big as Bill Gulliford.

When pledging support for the runner-up in Tuesday’s vote for Council President months back, Gulliford said that he wouldn’t accept a standing committee assignment in an Anna Brosche administration.

Gulliford walked that back Wednesday in an email to councilors.

“I have come to realize I live in a different world than the one that formed me,” Gulliford said, before retracting his previous position as “selfish” and imposing a “greater burden” on the other councilors.

With an eye toward alleviating the burden, Gulliford said he would request placement on two “lesser committees” during his “year’s exile.”

In a sense, there is a real irony to this — and an illustration of the very real change in the intra-Council dynamic.

Council members assigned to those “lesser committees” have complained, for years, about being frozen out of Finance and Rules in favor of less prestigious postings.

Meanwhile, those who were well-positioned never really acknowledged that there was a hierarchy of committee placement.

Gulliford will be termed out in 2019, and his email suggests that he is already downshifting, cognizant of the reality of a council dynamic that is seeing those elected in 2011 moving toward the exit ramp.

Meanwhile, it will be up to President-designate Brosche — who described her fellow Republican as a “grenade thrower” — to determine from which foxhole the Atlantic Beach councilman will be best positioned to throw some ordnance.

Meanwhile, that wasn’t the only bit of Council Leadership election news from Wednesday.

We spoke on Wednesday to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry about how Brosche can best utilize Gulliford and others who were adamant in their opposition to Brosche.

Curry, who is “really looking forward to working with” new council leadership, lauded defeated Presidential candidate John Crescimbeni for being an “important member of council” and a “good ally on some big issues.”

“We’re going to get everybody back together and work on things that are big for Jacksonville,” Curry said.

When asked if Crescimbeni, Gulliford, and others should be given the kinds of committee assignments they had been given under more favorable leadership, however, Curry noted that he wasn’t willing to “get into [Council] business.”

“Whatever the committees look like,” Curry said, “we will work together and continue to do bold things for our city and do our jobs.”

Police: expect extra ‘vetting’ at Jacksonville Jazz Festival

After a recent terror attack after a pop concert in England that took 19 lives and injured dozens more, security is bound to be stepped up throughout the western world.

Including in Jacksonville, where jazz fans should expect a little “vetting” from Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers at the Jazz Festival this weekend.

“When we ask to stop you, wand you, check your bag,” said JSO’s Leonard Propper Wednesday at a press conference at Jacksonville’s City Hall, “there’s a reason for that.”

The Jazz Festival – an outdoor event sprawling over four evenings and three days starting on Thursday evening with a jazz piano competition and running through Sunday – is especially vulnerable to security holes, said Propper, as an “outdoor” event with “porous” boundaries.

“It’s going to be a wonderful experience,” Propper added. “There’s going to be a little bit of vetting going on. There’s going to be people watching, people in places observing, and every interaction that we have with somebody is based on a reason.”

“And that reason is – we engage in that consensual conversation … it’s for your safety,” Propper added, urging people to “report anything suspicious” or “creepy.”

Propper’s comments – with specific focus on security and the inevitability of police interaction – were the most unique portion of a promotional event at Jacksonville City Hall, that otherwise was not much dissimilar than other jazz festival pressers in recent years.

Mayor Lenny Curry discussed security in a gaggle, citing “public safety” as a “top priority” of his, noting the “regular communication” he has with Sheriff Mike Williams on “any events … downtown.”

Curry noted that people should not feel “concerned,” and should be ready to “come out and have a good time.”

Of course, a new amphitheater – Daily’s Place – is slated to open this weekend.

Curry said that Daily’s Place is on track to open this weekend, with inspections and all that expected to be completed on time for the scheduled open.

“Our public safety officials are ready,” Curry said, when asked about any potential security concerns in a post-Manchester world.

Winners and losers emerging from the 2017 Jax Council leadership elections

The Jacksonville City Council Officer Elections have wrapped, and now comes the inevitable post-game analysis….

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PROLOGUE

A year ago, the Jacksonville City Council – like Jacksonville itself – was in a different place.

Pension reform was a concept, ethereal on some distant horizon.

And you couldn’t go a week without a thinkpiece on the expansion of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance, which finally was expanded in February to include LGBT protections.

The two biggest policy issues facing the City Council a year ago were resolved under the current leadership team: Council President Lori Boyer and VP John Crescimbeni.

Crescimbeni, according to sources familiar with the thinking of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, was especially key to pension reform; the theory was that he, along with Councilman Bill Gulliford, could be the major impediments to the effort on the Council.

But they were supportive – of the referendum measure last year, and of the actual process this year.

With Crescimbeni’s willingness to go to battle for a key city priority in mind, Curry stayed out of the council leadership scrum.

However, other parties didn’t stay out of it. Outside influence, say many councilors, was unavoidable in the just-concluded leadership races – specifically from the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, which one veteran hand said was the “new First Baptist Church” (the previous power behind the throne).

The Chamber wave was most felt in the VP race, decided by a lopsided 14-5 margin. Scott Wilson, who had the 5 in 14-5, had the most heartbreaking quote on Tuesday: “If I’d known how they felt, I would have withdrawn from the race.”

This was a watershed election, capping a watershed year. The winners are well-positioned for the future. And those on the losing side have existential questions to resolve.

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WINNERS

Jax Chamber: Over the last few years, a stealth story has been the Jax Chamber, slowly but surely, getting business-friendly candidates into leadership positions – a necessary condition to take advantage of the last bits of the Quantitative Easing driven economic boom nationally.

While the national and state economies are on less certain ground with each passing month, the city is as well-positioned as it could be going forward with Council President-Designate Anna Brosche and VP-Designate Aaron Bowman.

Both can be counted on to back business-friendly policies – especially Bowman, whose role with Chamber arm JAXUSA puts him in the position of recruiting many of the companies that end up receiving incentive deals.

John Peyton: Yes, the former mayor and the 2018 Jax Chamber Chair-Elect. Here’s why.

Peyton worked behind the scenes to build unique coalitions of support in favor of Chamber-friendly candidates. And indeed, the coalitions supporting Brosche and Bowman both were notable.

The African-American district council members who voted as a bloc in both elections and white social conservatives like Danny Becton and Matt Schellenberg often don’t overlap on policy. But they clearly had reasons to go with the candidates they did. And among those reasons: a need to shake up the council power dynamic to ensure that the same five people aren’t wielding most of the influence.

Peyton, meanwhile, had a personal reason for wading in – that being long-standing friction with John Crescimbeni. Ironically, many of those on the council – notably African-American Democrats who felt slighted by Crescimbeni historically – had their own personal reasons that proved to be dispositive.

African-American Council Dems: Months back, there was some skepticism about the influence that the City Council members from Districts 7 through 10 (Reggie Gaffney, Katrina Brown, Garrett Dennis, and Reggie Brown) would have on the vote Tuesday evening.

In 2016, splits among what would be a bloc in 2017 diffused the power of the quartet, and by and large created a business as usual environment on the City Council, where concerns of those councilors and their districts weren’t addressed any more than in previous years.

2017 saw a concerted effort to function as a caucus, which included a long public notice meeting with Council Leadership candidates to discuss concerns and goals for the upcoming year.

That momentum could have been diffused. However, the foursome resolved to hold out to maximize their power as a bloc. And they were the decisive margin in the race for Council President.

What does that mean in real terms?

For one thing, the very real possibility of an African-American chair of the Finance Committee (Garrett Dennis, sez the rumor mill, though Brosche and he both deny such) … and, perhaps, an inclusion of two councilors from Minority-Access Districts on that panel.

For another thing, a reset button on other concerns – with the city able to take advantage, perhaps, of reduced legacy costs from pensions to fulfill promises for neighborhood investments that were made decades ago.

Jacksonville is nearing the half-century mark as a consolidated city. And yet the promises of Consolidation go unfulfilled. Brosche must take a lead on redressing that condition.

 

The Class of 2015: When Brosche ran for office against former Councilwoman Kim Daniels (now representing NW Jacksonville in the State House), Daniels held forth against the danger of “political neophytes” taking control of the City Council during an election with 11 open seats.

Fast forward to 2017, and so-called neophytes control the process. Brosche and Bowman both come from that Class of 2015, and their ascendance to leadership in their third years on the council effectively means that those elected originally in 2011 have likely had their last shots at the brass ring.

After all, does anyone imagine that Bowman – who won the VP race 14 to 5 – will get serious competition when he runs for the Presidency? Especially given that most on the City Council will want Chamber backing in their re-election bids?

Duval GOP: Some grumbled that Brosche and Bowman were too “liberal” in 2015. But Party Chair Karyn Morton was on hand to fete their victory in Council Leadership races. The party still has its schisms, but if there is a window to move toward the pragmatism of Brosche and Bowman – and away from the Raymond Johnson/Gary Snow model – they need to exploit the opportunity. The Trump wave has crested and crashed; the Tea Party is at last call. It’s time for the adults in the room to be the models, not aberrations.

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LOSERS

John Crescimbeni: Yes, it’s tautological to put the guy who lost the Presidential race in this column. But there are reasons why he leads it off.

For one thing, there was the way Crescimbeni’s bid launched – in a room full of older white Republican men (by and large) who talked about the importance of “tradition” and dismissed the bid of Brosche (who after all was only the Finance Chair).

Crescimbeni had used his “experience counts” argument in myriad pledge meetings in 2016 as he took the VP slot by one vote from Doyle Carter. However, once he got out of that first meeting – and a follow-up with Arlington neighbor and fellow Democrat Joyce Morgan – he couldn’t get any more traction.

Part of the problem was that Crescimbeni’s rep was set in stone already. When councilors from your own party are willing to go to the press and talk about how you come off as imperious and unresponsive to their concerns, guess what? Dude, you have a major perception problem with your base.

Crescimbeni tried to reach out as the campaign progressed. But it was “too little, too late.”

That point was made most resoundingly by Garrett Dennis – the closest political ally of Duval DEC Chair and State Sen. Audrey Gibson – on the City Council.

Dennis, in seconding Brosche’s nomination, was very emphatic in rooting Brosche’s story in the history (indeed, the tradition) of Jacksonville.

There was talk that in 2016 Gibson and Corrine Brown both pulled some strings behind the scenes for Crescimbeni. If Gibson was pulling any strings this time, they weren’t connected to anything. And Corrine Brown? She’s otherwise occupied at the moment.

Meanwhile, Crescimbeni doesn’t know what his next political move is. However, here’s something worth monitoring: will he play ball with Brosche? Or will he throw salt in the game of council leadership’s agenda?

Councilman Reggie Gaffney told us — despite voting against Crescimbeni — that he should run next year. Current Council President Boyer said that “stranger things have happened.”

And yet? To quote Leonard Cohen, the rain falls hard on last year’s man.

Bill Gulliford: The problem with saying quotable things is that people remember them. And Gulliford, a Jacksonville Beach Republican, had the hottest quote of the whole Council Leadership process when he said he would not want to serve on a standing committee in the Brosche administration.

While that comment could be seen as brinksmanship, or as something said – as Brosche suggested – “in the heat of battle”, the reality is that for Gulliford, that moment may have been the zenith of his stroke on the council.

He’s going to have to walk back his criticisms of Brosche, and he may have to do it publicly. It was clear, based on multiple references to Gulliford as a “grenade thrower,” that Brosche took it personally.

How could she have not? Gulliford’s comment – offhand as it was – spoke to divides (age, gender, and otherwise). If he wants to be a player for the next two years, he’s going to have to find a way to mend fences.

Matt Schellenberg: Schellenberg, who has clashed with Crescimbeni on myriad occasions, backed the right horses in the race and should do well in committee assignments. But he’s under scrutiny from certain parties, not so much because of what he might do on Council until he’s termed out in 2019, but because he hasn’t ruled out a run for State House against Jason Fischer in 2018.  He may want to formally rule that one out.

Anna Brosche wins Jacksonville City Council President’s race; Aaron Bowman takes VP

On Tuesday, the Jacksonville City Council elected its new President and new Vice-President. For those seeking “Chamber friendly” officials, the vote couldn’t have gone better.

Elected President: Anna Brosche.

Elected Vice-President: Aaron Bowman.

There are those who say the Jax Chamber and former Mayor John Peyton swayed the outcome of the vote.

If that was their intention, they succeeded, as two very Chamber-friendly Republicans won convincingly.

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The pledges in the president’s race between Brosche and current VP John Crescimbeni, going into Tuesday, defied partisan characterizations.

Two Democrats — Katrina Brown and Garrett Dennis — joined Republicans Matt SchellenbergDoyle CarterSam NewbyAl FerraroAaron Bowman, Becton and the candidate herself on the Brosche bandwagon.  Crescimbeni had fellow Dems Joyce Morgan and Tommy Hazouri, and four Republicans (Bill GullifordGreg AndersonJim LoveScott Wilson) backing his play.

Council President Lori Boyer had not pledged, while Democrats Reggie Gaffney and Reggie Brown implied a “pack” pledge to Brosche.

Crescimbeni, had he been an ordinary Democrat, would have gotten Democratic votes and won the top job. However, he rubbed many Democrats — especially African-American district Dems — the wrong way.

Brosche, meanwhile, was rumored to have penciled in Garrett Dennis to chair the Finance Committee (a rumor she denied after the vote) — which would be an all-too-rare instance of an African-American helming the most important Council committee.

Meanwhile, former Mayor John Peyton — who had bad blood with Crescimbeni dating back years — allegedly was influencing decisions behind the scenes.

When we caught up with Crescimbeni before the vote, he said he wasn’t feeling “good” about the impending vote.

And he was not ready to talk about the events that led up to the vote Tuesday.

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Former Council President Anderson nominated Crescimbeni, saying “John gets in the trenches for us … is there for us,” as part of a litany of supportive statements for the candidate.

Former Mayor and current Councilman Hazouri seconded, noting Crescimbeni’s “hard work … perseverance … and personality that sometimes we love and sometimes we don’t love.”

Then the Brosche nomination, via Councilman Schellenberg, who lauded Brosche for “leading by example,” and her willingness to “challenge the status quo.”

And then Councilman Dennis — a Democrat who is rumored to be the next Finance Chair — who said Brosche embodied the “best of Jacksonville.”

Crescimbeni stared forward, looking dyspeptic as Dennis poured on the compliments, before the ballots were distributed.  But he recovered and smiled at Brosche while the ballots were collected.

The vote went 11-8. Surprises in the balloting: Boyer went with Crescimbeni; Gaffney with Brosche.

Brosche, in her remarks, lauded the “different experiences, gifts, talents” and “diversity of thought and experience” on the Council.

“We have lots of Joyce Morgans in the community … Katrina Browns … and even my grenade-throwing friend Bill Gulliford in the community,” the President-Elect said.

Gulliford, notably, had previously said he wouldn’t accept a committee post in the Brosche administration. Brosche said that while Gulliford may have said things in the heat of battle, and enjoys being a “grenade thrower,” that assignments would be at her discretion.

The same discretion more or less held true for her defeated opponent, she said.

As well, Brosche noted that she is giving “significant consideration” to how to ensure the composition of the Finance Committee is more diverse than in many recent years.

A deflated Crescimbeni, meanwhile, had an interesting answer to our question regarding his next political move in 2019.

“What are you doing in 2019?”

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The VP race was more wide-open, with fewer than half the council pledging to a candidate before Tuesday ,,, leaving the ultimate resolution of the undercard contest a mystery headed into Tuesday.

One candidate, Scott Wilson, had two pledges outside of himself: current VP John Crescimbeni and Bill Gulliford.

Wilson’s opponent, Aaron Bowman, had six committed supporters including himself: Jim LoveMatt SchellenbergDoyle CarterSam Newby, and Anna Brosche.

Ten councilors: unpledged as of Tuesday.

Doyle Carter — who lost a close VP race to Crescimbeni a year ago — nominated Bowman. citing his Navy experience. Sam Newby had the second, saying Bowman would be ready on “day one” if he needed to take over as President.

Gulliford nominated Wilson, hearkening back to the candidate’s time as a council aide in describing Wilson’s “institutional knowledge.” Joyce Morgan (a previously unpledged councilor) seconded the nomination, lauding Wilson’s strength and independence.

There were no other nominations.

Bowman carried it, 14 to 5.

Wilson didn’t see it coming.

“If I had known how they felt,” he said of the 14 who voted for Bowman, “I would have withdrawn.”

Jacksonville closes book on disability rights dispute with settlement bills

On Tuesday night, the Jacksonville City Council passed a trio of bills designed to close the books on a conflict between neighborhood activists in Springfield, disability rights groups, and ultimately, the federal Department of Justice.

Two Jacksonville City Council bills (2017-68 and 2017-69) closed the book on an issue that first emerged during the Alvin Brown administration.

To recap: in 2014, Ability Housing set out to renovate an apartment building in Springfield to create 12 units of housing for the chronically homeless and disabled.

The planning director balked, likening the proposed use to that of an assisted living facility. Soon thereafter, the Department of Justice, Disability Florida, and Ability Housing sued.

The proposed settlement ensures that the city not discriminate via zoning against those with disabilities, including via so-called zoning “overlays” such as Springfield and other neighborhoods have, and allows Ability Housing to become eligible for Jacksonville Journey funding again.

Ability Housing and Disability Rights Florida will receive $400,000 and $25,000 respectively per the settlement. Jacksonville also will be required to grant $1.5 million for the development of permanent supportive housing for people with disabilities, after a competitive grant process including Ability Housing.

A rewrite of a related zoning bill, 2017-36, passed by a 16-3 margin, along with the two aforementioned bills Tuesday evening.

Per the bill summary: “As it pertains to the City Zoning Code, language will be revised to provide, among other things, for such reasonable accommodation requests to be considered as a request for an administrative deviation, identify a permanent supportive housing use and define the term ‘supportive services’, and to authorize group care homes and residential treatment facilities by exception in Springfield.”

 

Danny Becton pledges to Anna Brosche as she closes in on Jax Council presidency

With Jacksonville City Council members preparing to vote Tuesday on their next President, the outcome is starting to look clearer hours from the 3 p.m. vote to decide who will assume the lead in Council starting July.

Right now, Finance Committee Chair Anna Brosche leads current VP John Crescimbeni 9-7 in the pledge count. Three councilors, meanwhile, remain officially undecided. But if “pack voting” holds involving two of those councilors, this is a done deal.

Those councilors: Republican Council President Lori Boyer And two of Crescimbeni’s fellow Democrats: Reggie Gaffney and Reggie Brown.

On Monday night, Councilman Danny Becton pledged to Brosche, giving her nine pledges and the inside track on the Council presidency … barring some eleventh hour interference or change of heart among supporters.

Notable: party labels mean little in this contest, with Democrats and Republicans alike jumping ship.

Two Democrats — Katrina Brown and Garrett Dennis — on Friday joined Republicans Matt SchellenbergDoyle CarterSam NewbyAl FerraroAaron Bowman, Becton and the candidate herself on the Brosche bandwagon.  Crescimbeni has fellow Dems Joyce Morgan and Tommy Hazouri, and four Republicans (Bill GullifordGreg AndersonJim LoveScott Wilson) backing his play.

As it stands on Tuesday morning, we have a 9-7 lead for Brosche, requiring Crescimbeni to get all three holdouts on his side.

Meanwhile, there is a strong indication — via Councilman Reggie Brown — that Brosche may have at least 10 votes locked up … with Reggie Gaffney, Katrina Brown, Garrett Dennis, and Councilman Brown himself providing the decisive margin.

“Our plan was to run as a pack … I gave up having direct participation with this process due to its biases.  I wish both candidates well; however, our decision to vote as a pack must be adhered, or the value of the pack is useless,” Brown told us Monday morning.

“The strength is in the pack. All I have is my word,” Brown added.

Thus, if pack voting holds, Brosche has her ten votes locked up … assuming nothing changes.

_____

The process, of course, was never intended to be this open. Not this year.

A group of council members — Gulliford, Crescimbeni, Greg AndersonJim Love, and Tommy Hazouri — signed on very quickly, giving Crescimbeni a 6 to 1 advantage over Brosche in the early going … a remarkable number, given that all but Hazouri are second-term Republican males crossing party lines to go against their GOP comrade-in-arms.

Gulliford noted that Crescimbeni needed to get the other four necessary pledges very quickly, given Brosche’s entry into the race.

Gulliford, who believes that “tradition” dictates the VP move up to the top job barring extraordinary circumstances, noted that he’d be “hard-pressed to serve in any standing committee in administration.”

“The administration doesn’t play in our sandbox. Outside entities don’t play in our sandbox,” Gulliford rhetorically chided.

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The ultimate question that outside observers will have: why couldn’t Crescimbeni close the deal with Dems?

Some Democrats note that Crescimbeni doesn’t go out of his way to make personal connections with them and that Crescimbeni hasn’t been out front on Democratic Party issues — including but not limited to withholding meaningful support from Alvin Brown in the 2015 Mayoral race.

“He never even looks me in the eye in the hall,” was what one disgruntled Dem told us.

Brosche, often dismissed by media as too quiet and reserved (a sharp contrast to Crescimbeni), has found a way to chip at Crescimbeni’s seeming firewall of tradition and party loyalty, and perhaps scuttle the Council lifer’s last shot at the Council presidency before he’s termed out in 2019.

___

Then again, perhaps not.

As we saw in the 2016 race for vice president, it looked to be Doyle Carter’s to lose, until Reggie Gaffney shocked the room and broke his pledge to Carter to vote for Crescimbeni.

Worth noting, though:

Brosche’s Twitter feed in recent weeks has read as an extended subtweet of her opponent. One instance stands out: a May 10 RT of a mayoral staffer: “Power doesn’t need propping up.”

That last quote has an especial symbolism, in light of how the binary race between Crescimbeni and Brosche kicked off months back … almost as if Crescimbeni’s supporters were trying to throw some elbows and clear the field.

Mayor Lenny Curry is described as having a comfort level with either of the two candidates.

Worth noting: Crescimbeni was a strong supporter of Curry’s key initiative, pension reform.

Despite Crescimbeni putting city above partisan politics, that may not be enough to seal the deal for him, given attrition of support throughout so much of council.

Carla Wiley ‘One Door’ sentencing moved to Judge Timothy Corrigan

Federal Judge Timothy Corrigan is expected to sentence Corrine Brown later this summer on 18 counts related to a fraudulent educational charity, “One Door for Education.”

Brown is not the only One Door participant that will be sentenced by Corrigan, as Carla Wiley — the CEO of the charity — will also be sentenced by Corrigan,

Wiley’s sentence is contingent on cooperation with the federal prosecutors, and she provided it in her testimony in the Corrine Brown trial.

Judge Marcia Morales Howard noted in her order that since Corrigan tried the Brown case, it “appears these cases should be in front of the same judge.”

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Carla Wiley, the head of the One Door for Education charity, took the stand in one of the most anticipated testimonies of the trial.

Wiley had pleaded out already.

What was a mystery – how Brown’s machine took over a previously below-the-radar charity.

Part of it came down to love. Part of it came down to circumstance.

And all of it, said Wiley, amounted to fraud.

Wiley, who dated Brown’s chief-of-staff and former co-defendant, Ronnie Simmons, outlined something key to the prosecution case: a narrative that Brown had a key role in orchestrating the scheme, even though emails and surveillance video show that Simmons did most of the withdrawals from One Door and transfers to Brown’s accounts, along with cash withdrawals.

Wiley’s charity and consulting business served as a pass-through for One Door donations, which went to lavish travel for herself and Simmons.

When asked if she engaged in “fraud” for One Door, Wiley said yes – and that Brown and Simmons did also.

Brown and Simmons were the rainmakers, raising all but “two or three thousand dollars” of the $800,000 brought in, she said.

And, through all that time, she knew of one scholarship for One Door.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars came in, said Wiley, who owned up to wire fraud and profiting off of the charity.

The charity had closed its original bank account, with some thought of finding a different way of helping children, before on-again/off-again boyfriend Simmons convinced Wiley to let her non-profit host a reception for Brown in Sept. 2012.

Wiley offered the charity for that use. And she gave Simmons the debit cards and checks, trusting him to “manage it correctly.”

“I thought it would be a good way to help, get a lot of exposure,” Wiley said, with her access to her mother’s scholarship fund restricted to online only.

“As he would write checks, he would sign my name,” Wiley said regarding Simmons.

Wiley and Simmons would discuss the account balance, via email and text. Brown was out of the loop on these discussions, Wiley said.

Wiley stopped soliciting donations herself; the machine was run by Simmons within months after the arrangement was struck, even though donations would sometimes be FedEx’d to the office of Wiley’s former employer.

Money for car payments and other expenses, for Wiley and her family, coursed from the One Door account also, the witness said.

Wiley was schmoozing donors at certain events … and deciding to spend money raised: $140,000 total, she claimed on the stand. The money, extracted over three years, “came out pretty frequent,” Wiley said.

When asked about her biggest withdrawal, Wiley couldn’t recall.

Meanwhile, even with Wiley’s mother’s name on the charity and Wiley as the president, the charity was essentially Simmons’ machine to run and deploy, including sending out fundraising pitch letters to money marks, with forged signatures a specialty of his.

By May 2015, tension had become notable, with Wiley bringing up the “trouble” in an email to Simmons, noting the money came in but wasn’t going out for charitable purposes. In that email, Wiley asserted that the treasurer had expressed concerns; that was a lie, but the real story was Wiley’s own concerns about the charity having become a scam.

Details – such as the lapsed 501(3)c status of One Door – went undisclosed to Brown, Wiley said.

Meanwhile, lavish romantic trips with Simmons and Wiley, by and large, were also outside the purview of Brown – though Wiley didn’t know One Door was funding the trips, she said.

Wiley said nothing to Brown or Simmons, and didn’t know they were working the same scam.

Lori Boyer talks Jax Council President race

At the end of June, Jacksonville City Council President Lori Boyer will pass the gavel to one of two people running to replace her.

The city will have accomplished two major things on her watch: expansion of the city’s Human Rights Ordinance and comprehensive pension reform.

Yet there is one more significant hurdle to clear: the election between Anna Brosche and John Crescimbeni on Tuesday.

Ahead of that vote, there have been arguable irregularities: among them, a group of council members voting in a “pack,” which could swing the election toward Brosche; and a breakfast meeting between Brosche, two other supporters, and some others that also raised the hackles of some council members on the other side.

Boyer, whose own election to the Presidency was uncontested, didn’t face this kind of action last year. And now, in one of her last acts as Council President, she sits in the President’s Chair as months of drama and intrigue are distilled into a 19-person vote.

“I really believe that both of them would do a fine job as Council President … that either one of them could execute the job well on behalf of the entire city council,” Boyer said.

“Typically,” Boyer added, “at this time the President’s race has become clear.”

This year, however, it’s not. When we pointed out that the tally could be 9-9, with Boyer having to decide, she said that “would be interesting.”

However, Boyer noted, that if the block of four council members holds up and coalesces behind Brosche, as seems to be the case, “that tips the scale.”

Boyer, when asked about a potential “optics issue” regarding Brosche meeting with supporters days before the vote, had this to say.

“It’s probably not good optics,” Boyer said. “But it may be that there was nothing discussed that was a problem.”

That said, Boyer noted that a role of council members is to “preserve the image” of the City Council.

“From an image perspective, the timing could have been better,” Boyer said. “But we are allowed to talk to one another,” she added, about personal matters that have nothing to do with Council business.

“You’re not allowed to talk about something like ‘the race’,” Boyer added.

That is pertinent, especially now, as Jacksonville Ethics Officer Carla Miller sent out an email reminding Council members that the Sunshine Law does exist and in fact applies to these matters.

Rick Scott highlights Enterprise Florida success story in Jacksonville

Monday saw Florida Gov. Rick Scott on yet another trip to Jacksonville, where he highlighted job growth at a medical technology company.

That company — Sunoptic Technologies — has benefited from one of Scott’s key initiatives, Enterprise Florida, which in addition to offering economic incentives also provided a global stage for the mid-sized company over the years, via showcasing it and other companies globally at events like MEDICA, a German trade show for the industry.

“In early 2013, Sunoptic Technologies signed a new exclusive distributor to serve the Japanese market. We chose to participate in the Florida Pavilion at MEDICA because the exposure we will get will help us create new international clients like our Japanese distributor. Thanks to Enterprise Florida, Sunoptic Technologies can focus on our customers and products and work on expanding internationally,” said David Mutch, Director of Sunoptic Technologies, in 2013.

Mutch enthused again about EFI in 2016, as his company readied for another German junket: ““Enterprise Florida’s participation at MEDICA is a key component of our marketing plan … As a small business, it would be very difficult to participate on our own. We would never be able to present ourselves in a positive, professional way. The services provided also enable us to have a larger presence.”

Rick Scott’s strategy — jobs, jobs, jobs — sounds simple. And incentives are often poorly understood by media and politicians. But in the case of Sunoptic, an Enterprise Florida success story, Scott clearly believes the story is worth telling.

And tell it he did.

Sunoptic is a company that has seen its revenue quadruple during the Enterprise Florida era, with 75 employees and 10 percent year over year revenue growth.

Gov. Scott attributed this to a number of factors, including Enterprise Florida trade shows and an environment in Jacksonville, facilitated by the Mayor and the City Council, that just “gets things done.”

After inserting what is now a familiar riposte against “politicians in Tallahassee that turned back” Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Scott passed the mike to Mayor Lenny Curry, who had his own thoughts on the city’s wave of economic success.

Curry noted that “the recipe in Jacksonville” is “just right” for business expansion and relocation.

Council President Lori Boyer — in whose district the company operates — lauded Scott for being “singularly focused” on jobs, noting that Jacksonville’s strong economic metrics (4 percent unemployment; 3.7 percent job growth in 2016) provide evidence that the Rick Scott approach works.

“That’s a legacy,” Boyer said about the numbers.

Scott noted in his post-event comments that, despite a record of strong economic performance, the state’s economic motor is beginning to sputter.

“If your growth rate in something slowed down, that would concern you. That’s happening in our state,” Scott said.

“If you look at our overall job growth numbers,” Scott said, and compare them to a year ago, “they’re not as fast as they used to be.

The same is true for construction and hospitality.

Scott attributed that, again, to “politicians in Tallahassee turning their back on Enterprise Florida.”

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