Jax Archives - Florida Politics

Shad Khan on Donald Trump’s latest: ‘the lowest of the lowest expectations’

President Donald Trump has been roasted throughout the media for reported comments during a condolence call to the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson.

Reportedly telling the grieving widow that he “knew what he signed up for,” Trump also apparently failed to refer to the slain sergeant by his name.

Many are outraged. Including an NFL owner.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan has not missed an opportunity of late to criticize Trump, and he addressed this and other topics with USA Today Wednesday evening.

“It’s so bad,” said Khan to USA Today. “It’s below the lowest of the lowest expectations. It doesn’t sound rational. It’s bizarre.”

Khan then said that the President was more offensive than NFL protests of the national anthem.

“Let’s get real,” Khan said. “The attacks on Muslims, the attacks on minorities, the attacks on Jews. I think the NFL doesn’t even come close to that on the level of being offensive. Here, it’s about money, or messing with — trying to soil a league or a brand that he’s jealous of.”

Khan also offered USA Today his sharpest criticism yet of Trump’s repeated travel bans from majority-Muslim countries.

“That’s one aspect that you can imagine — someone is getting a visa that will change their life is from a Muslim-majority country — and, now, boom, that dream to change lives, they get locked out,” Khan said. “That’s a hell of a lot more significant than fighting some sponsors or people who want their money back because they’ve been riled up.”

These comments follow up on comments Khan made in Chicago earlier this month.

On Trump, Khan had this to say: “You have to give Trump credit, people are confused on the First Amendment versus patriotism, that if you exercise your First Amendment, you’re not a patriot, which is crazy … People are confused on it, (Trump) knew he could hit on it and take advantage. I think what we’re seeing is the great divider overcoming the great uniter.”

And on Trump adviser Steve Bannon, Khan was even more pointed.

“Steve Bannon or whoever is analyzing the data realizes, ‘How do I get elected?’ I get elected by dividing this person or this group against this group. What are the worst fears, phobias somebody has, how do I tap that button and get them with my people? There’s a lot of predictive behavior here.”

Amidst all of these expressly political statements, Khan has attempted to mend fences with the Jacksonville fan base, though efforts have met with skepticism.

The sincerity well-publicized apology letter from Jaguars President Mark Lamping to a city of Jacksonville official was questioned by someone who had met, along with other military veterans and officers, with the Jaguars a day before.

With Kids Hope Alliance bill, Lenny Curry consolidated Jax City Council behind his vision

A week after the Jacksonville City Council passed his Kids Hope Alliance bill, Mayor Lenny Curry signed the reform bill into law Wednesday.

The KHA, a new seven-person board that will replace the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey, will command a roughly $35M budget for services for what the Mayor calls “at-hope kids,”  handling oversight of various programs.

The bill passed 18-1 , after a chippy discussion that lasted almost four hours, exposing and exacerbating fissures on the Council that have moved from hallway gossip to fodder for mainstream media.

The sole no vote: Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, who had his own competing legislation that now rests in the scrapheap of dead bills.

This was after City Council President Anna Brosche attempted to stall the bill out from being heard on the night of the vote, saying the public needed more time to review it and that she had unanswered questions, accusing the Curry administration of trying to hide the bill from the public (a contention that Curry strenuously refuted).

And the sponsor of the KHA legislation, Scott Wilson, was himself an interesting choice. Wilson had been very vocal about geographic limitations in the funding program of the Jacksonville Journey in 2016, and it didn’t seem coincidental that he was carrying the replacement.

Wilson was lacerating in dealing with Dennis’ stall tactics during bill discussion, calling them “disgusting” on more than one occasion.

Such procedural drama: in the rear view mirror, as Curry signed the bill.

Indeed, Curry didn’t even want to address the drama that preceded the bill passing; the ceremonial signing at Daniel Kids on Jacksonville’s Southside was described by Curry as a “celebration.”

However, it was a celebration that excluded Brosche and Dennis, who did not make the trip to the Southside.

Curry described the reorg in big-picture terms, saying that it was about trying to make children’s services closer to “perfect” in the city.

Curry also, in what could have been seen as a rebuke to those who thought the previous structure was canonical, noted that long after he’s gone, he expects that advocates for children’s services will attempt to reform the KHA.

“This legislation worked how all legislation should work,” Curry said, noting that the collaboration and one-on-one meetings with Council made the bill better, with key changes that included ensuring that special needs children were addressed in the legislation.

Curry lauded Councilman Wilson, saying that the Councilman “took an interest early on in how we provide services to kids” and was “willing to lead” on this bill.

Indeed, Wilson — in whose district Daniel Kids is located — noted that a key feature that he liked about this bill was language that allowed qualified applicants anywhere in the city to receive services, a difference from the Zip Code based Jacksonville Journey model.

Council VP Aaron Bowman — the odds on favorite to be Council President next year — issued a ringing endorsement of Curry and the bill, one even more meaningful given Brosche’s absence and the unresolved conflict between the Mayor and the current Council President.

“You say you’re gonna do something, you do it,” Bowman said, “and involve all of us.”

And regarding the bill?

“I can’t offer a change to make it better.”

Among the other Councilors in attendance: recent Republican Council Presidents Lori Boyer and Greg Anderson, along with fellow Republicans Jim Love and Sam Newby, and Democrats Katrina BrownReggie Gaffney, and Tommy Hazouri.

The Council calendar is poised to slow down as the year wraps up, but what is clear is that any restiveness among the city’s legislators has been quelled, and the One City, One Jacksonville vision — embodied on Kids Hope Alliance, in both concept and actualization — has prevailed.

This, despite the Council President and the chair of the best committee on Council standing on the sidelines.

Republican Wyman Duggan scores 8 more endorsements in HD 15

Jacksonville Republican Wyman Duggan rolled out a swath of endorsements on Wednesday in his bid for the GOP nomination in House District 15.

Councilmen Danny BectonMatt SchellenbergGreg AndersonAaron BowmanScott WilsonDoyle Carter, and Sam Newby are newly on board.

Also lining up behind Duggan: former Councilmen Jim Overton and Kevin Hyde.

“I am humbled by so many community leaders stepping forward to support my campaign and share their valuable perspective with me,” Duggan said.

Duggan was previously endorsed by  Rep. John Rutherford, State Sen. Aaron Bean, State Rep. Jason Fischer, Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell, Duval Tax Collector Michael Corrigan and Councilman Jim Love.

Duggan faces no competition thus far for the GOP nomination in the race to succeed Jay Fant, who is running for Attorney General.

Duggan will have a general election opponent, however: Democrat Tracye Polson.

Vet who met with Jaguars’ brass says anthem apology is a sham

Just weeks ago, members of the Jacksonville Jaguars made international news by protesting the U.S. national anthem on foreign soil.

Ahead of a game in London, Jaguars kneeled — and owner Shad Khan supported their protest by standing with the team during the anthem.

In the interim, an attempt to walk it back: as a mea culpa letter from Jaguars President Mark Lamping to a city of Jacksonville official made clear on Oct. 6.

The team, wrote Lamping, “was remiss in not fully comprehending the effect of the national anthem demonstration on foreign soil has had on the men and women who have or continue to serve our country.”

“We owe you an apology and hope you will accept it,” Lamping added.

That formal apology followed a meeting between Jags ownership and management and military leaders and veterans — with one meeting attendee speaking out in a letter obtained by Florida Politics, which questioned the apology.

That veteran: Anthony (Tony) D’Aleo, the President of the local Nicholas J. Cutinha Vietnam Veterans Association Chapter 1046.

D’Aleo’s account of the meeting filled in many of the gaps left by the Lamping letter to the city official, ascribing material motivations to the Jaguars’ about-face.

What I got out of this meeting: they are worried of protest and ticket sales — merchandise very low. Michael from the USO said he purchased 1500 tickets at low price for the last game and only sold 200,” D’Aleo wrote.

D’Aleo also questioned the legitimacy of the apology itself.

“The Jaguars don’t think they did anything wrong, (to me that’s bull). They have reason why they knelt — they blamed it on Trump and the NFL Commissioner why they did it.”

“[Shad Khan, the Jaguars owner] and Mark [Lamping] said, the Jaguars will not apologize or say they are sorry to the Veteran Community. I felt they bought the city, with that Million Dollars donation,” D’Aleo wrote.

The $1 million donation was a financial commitment made in 2014 to the city’s military affairs department by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Our military, both active duty and retired, is an important part of the fabric of Jacksonville and the Jaguars fan base,” said Khan.  “When veterans decide to call Jacksonville home, that’s an honor for all of us, and with that comes the responsibility to support them in their transition to civilian life.”

We have reached out to the city and the team for their comments on D’Aleo’s account of the meeting; check back for updates.

Jacksonville City Council to sue Big Pharma over opioid distribution

On Monday and Tuesday, Jacksonville City Council panels OK’d a resolution (2017-674) to allow the city’s general counsel to “investigate and pursue” a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.

Full Council approval will be a formality and will almost certainly be conferred next week.

The resolution calls out “pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors” as potential lawsuit targets, yet does not rule out other targets.

Resolution sponsor Bill Gulliford has pushed for a concerted local response to the overdose epidemic, one that has seen myriad fatalities, along with budgetary and manpower burdens imposed on the city’s Fire and Rescue department.

$1.5 million dollars have already been budgeted for a treatment program. However, Gulliford has sought to see the city join other governments in suing Big Pharma.

Guilliford said Monday the bill allowed for general counsel to consider outside representation. Each firm’s financial capability to pursue the matter is among criteria considered by general counsel, he said.

Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies, said Gulliford, claimed that these products were non-addictive — leading to $17 billion profits for just Purdue alone.

There’s no out-of-pocket cost for the city, a representative from the general counsel said; if an award was made to the city, there would be a contingency payment.

Despite many jurisdictions suing Big Pharma, Jacksonville’s lawyers believe that “independent damages” suffered by the city provide rationale for a standalone suit — regardless of whether or not the state takes action eventually.

The city would need its own legal action to secure its own potential recovery. This would not be a class action suit, as each city has its own impacts.

Those “independent damages” have yet to be calculated.

The city lawyer on hand likened this suit to the “Big Tobacco” suits years back, in terms of approach.

The mayor’s office will be “evaluating this legislation” should it pass, a staffer said.

Jacksonville Jaguars issue mea culpa for players’ anthem protest

Just weeks ago, members of the Jacksonville Jaguars made international news by protesting the U.S. national anthem on foreign soil.

Ahead of a game in London, Jaguars kneeled — and owner Shad Khan supported their protest by standing with the team during the anthem.

Khan offered support before the protest, said defender Telvin Smith: “It was [a] sigh of relief when the owner comes in and says: ‘We’re with you. Whatever you want to do, let’s do it.’”

After the protest, Khan told Smith that he was “going to remember this for the rest of my life.”

Ownership and management, apparently, is as inconsistent as the team is on the field — as a mea culpa letter from Jaguars President Mark Lamping to a city of Jacksonville official made clear on Oct. 6.

The team, wrote Lamping, “was remiss in not fully comprehending the effect of the national anthem demonstration on foreign soil has had on the men and women who have or continue to serve our country.”

“Similarly, we today can better appreciate how standing for God Save The Queen may have been viewed negatively by our armed forces here in Jacksonville and beyond …  this was an oversight and certainly not intended to send a message that would disparage you, our flag or our nation,” Lamping wrote.

Given the chain of events before the protest, which included Jaguars ownership and management being aware that a demonstration was planned, it’s hard to imagine this as an “oversight.”

Yet that’s the narrative.

“The notion never entered the minds of our players or anyone affiliated with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but today we can understand how the events in London on September 24 could have been viewed or misinterpreted. We owe you an apology and hope you will accept it,” Lamping added.

The letter was dated Oct. 6 — nine days before the Jaguars’ most recent home game, a classic home team collapse against the Los Angeles Rams.

In the interim, Khan offered some very direct comments about President Donald Trump — to whom Khan donated $1 million — and Trump’s advisor, Steve Bannon.

“What (Trump) has done is shown leadership as the great divider, not [a] uniter. We are used to being warm and fuzzy and cuddled. Well, it’s a different time,” Khan said.

That division is part of the Steve Bannon strategy, Khan offered.

“Steve Bannon or whoever is analyzing the data realizes, ‘How do I get elected?’ I get elected by dividing this person or this group against this group. What are the worst fears, phobias somebody has, how do I tap that button and get them with my people? There’s a lot of predictive behavior here,” Khan asserted.

One suspects that Khan’s actual take on this matter is closer to his widely-reported comments than to Lamping’s attempt to walk back the London protest and placate the ever-fickle fanbase in the Jacksonville market.

John Rutherford bill would help veterans transition to business world

U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Al Lawson, a Republican and Democrat representing Jacksonville, have joined forces on a new piece of veteran-friendly legislation.

HR 3965 — the “Veterans Armed for Success Act” — would appropriate $5M for job-related training and “transition assistance” for military veterans.

That $5M would go to eligible organizations in the form of federal matching funds, defraying up to 50 percent of costs.

In Jacksonville Tuesday afternoon at “Operation New Uniform,” Rutherford — who introduced the legislation —  addressed local media, explaining how the bill would work in helping military veterans with “transitioning into stable-long term employment.”

“Veterans get the job done and get the job done right,” Rutherford said, adding that his bill would help “set up veterans for success.”

Speaking of Operation New Uniform specifically, Rutherford noted that 97 percent of its graduates find “meaningful employment” within four months of graduating.

Yet there is a problem with capacity; due to limited funding — and no federal funding currently — Operation New Uniform has had to turn people away.

These federal matching funds, said Rutherford, could make a real difference. And a model like that of Operation New Uniform could be replicated across the country.

The matching funds component is key to the bill, Rutherford said, as “communities have to pull together and apply” for consideration.

The payoff is potentially much bigger than federal money, Rutherford added.

Programs like Operation New Uniform help diminish the “mental anguish” veterans experience during job searches.

“22 veterans a day take their own lives,” Rutherford remarked, and a contributing factor to that seems to be the difficulty from transitioning from the military world to the business environment.

April Green to be nominated for Jacksonville’s JEA Board

Florida Politics has learned, via a source outside of City Hall familiar with the process, that Jacksonville’s JEA Board will have a new member soon — pending City Council approval.

April Green has been selected to fill a vacancy left by Ed Burr, who stepped down from the board earlier this year.

Legislation will be introduced by Mayor Lenny Curry this week, and City Council approval will be necessary for Green to join the utility’s board.

Green, an Air Force Veteran who served in Desert Storm, brings to the table copious experience in business and marketing, along with a deep-seated connection with the community through religious faith and philanthropy.

Currently, Green is the COO for Baxter Technology, in addition to being the CFO/COO for Bethel Baptist Institutional Church in Jacksonville.

Previously, Green served as corporate tourism director for the Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A member of the Board of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Green also is a 2015 Leadership Florida graduate.

Green’s husband, Eric, is CEO of JAXPORT.

More details on this potential appointment will follow as made available.

Hart Bridge ‘design criteria project’ cleared for Jax Council vote

Last November, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made an audacious ask of the Duval County Legislative Delegation: $50M to remove and replace the Hart Bridge offramps.

“The ramps were originally designed to bypass the industrialized waterfront,” Curry said in 2016, a purpose outmoded in the half-century since the original construction.

Curry’s ask: “To knock the [current] ramp down,” and create a traffic flow onto Bay Street, thus resolving a “public safety issue, a traffic flow issue, a downtown in-and-out issue also.”

The Duval Delegation didn’t carry this ask, and as a result, Curry changed his strategy — leading to a bill now under consideration by the local City Council, a measure that would allocate $1.5 million for a feasibility study for the project.

On Tuesday, the Finance Committee approved the bill — the second and final committee to OK the legislation, setting it up for Council approval via the consent agenda Tuesday night.

The project is deemed necessary by the Curry administration, which has invested in capital projects for the Sports Complex, and which anticipates a ramp-up for the Shipyards rehab project from Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

And the rationale for the project has evolved as well — to improve freight traffic to the port, a rationale not mentioned in 2016, via Talleyrand Avenue.

Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa said the money was to create a “design criteria project,” a prerequisite for moving forward on this “shovel-ready project.”

This design criteria project could be done in as few as four months, or as many as eight.

This would include a survey of the current conditions, preliminary design alignments (such as lane location and speed rates), and other such basic criteria.

This $1.5 million is important, said Mousa, because the city is pursuing a federal infrastructure grant of $25 million, with $12.5 million from the state of Florida in matching money and $12.5 million from the city.

Stakes are high: if the federal money falls through, so does the matching money from the state.

Jacksonville has one of three similar grant applications pending with the federal government, currently, though there is no timetable on when a grant may be approved.

Once the DCP is complete, the project could take 30 to 36 months.

“We’re not asking you to appropriate the $12.5 million,” Mousa said in Monday’s committee, noting that the federal grant would be for “freight movement,” which the FDOT says would be “highly improved” by bringing the ramp down, “providing easier access to Talleyrand Avenue.”

The project would provide for “free-flowing truck traffic,” with a T intersection at Gator Bowl Boulevard to route traffic onto Talleyrand Avenue, to help transport freight.

Rose Conry files to run for Jacksonville City Council

Another establishment Republican is in the Jacksonville City Council derby for 2019.

Rose Conry, CEO and co-founder of StaffTime in Jacksonville, filed Tuesday to replace termed-out fellow Republican Matt Schellenberg in his Southside Jacksonville seat.

Conry has been regarded in the business community for her acumen: she won the Jax Chamber Small Business Leader award in 2014, and will almost certainly be a Chamber-friendly candidate.

Expect robust fundraising early, as a preemptive measure against other aspirant candidates.

Conry is alone currently in the District 6 race, but won’t be for long. Word is that former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan is looking at the race, along with former Council candidate Geoff Youngblood.

All three candidates would be Republicans.

Conry — as is the case with a functional slate of Council candidates that includes Rory DiamondRon SalemLeAnna Cumber, and Randy DeFoor — will have her campaign handled by Tim Baker and Brian Hughes … the Mayor’s political team.

With eight Council seats open, it is notable that five of those seats have candidates whose bids will be managed by a team uniquely suited to microtarget messages to specific audiences in these Council districts.

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