Jax Archives - Page 2 of 418 - Florida Politics

About NRA backing, Lenny Curry isn’t ‘100 percent aligned’ with donors, supporters

The National Rifle Association endorsed Lenny Curry for Jacksonville Mayor in 2015, yet when we asked Curry about NRA support, he said he wasn’t in “100 percent alignment” with donors and supporters on Wednesday.

“Not issue specific. Any supporter, any donor, any endorser, you’re not going to have 100 percent alignment on,” Curry said at a media availability.

“At least I don’t. They don’t expect that. They expect independent thinking,” Curry said of donors and endorsers.

We asked Curry where he diverged from NRA positions; he offered no answer, potentially a reflection of the balancing act Republican politicians are facing with the gun lobby currently.

“I’m a Constitutional conservative, believe in the rule of law, and the firearm issue is regulated at the federal and state level,” Curry said. “My commitment to public safety has been demonstrated in real investments and real actions here in Jacksonville.”

When asked about the assault weapon ban that the Florida House effectively voted down Tuesday, Curry said that was another example of a state regulation, and offered no comment on the Republican legislators in this region who voted to not even give the bill a hearing.

“Recognizing that we are in very sad times right now, tragic times, I’m going to do what I can in Jacksonville to keep our city safe,” Curry said, citing his reforms of children’s programs via the Kids Hope Alliance as an example of such action.

Duval GOP pushes back on Garrett Dennis’s call to ‘point the gun at’ Lenny Curry

Democratic Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis may have been talking about a unified party in the constant struggle against GOP Mayor Lenny Curry when he said “We cannot turn the gun on each other. We must point the gun at the enemy.”

But at least part of his reported comments Monday was interpreted/spun differently by the Duval County Republican Party.

“It is beyond insensitive and disgraceful for City Councilman Garrett Dennis to encourage his fellow Democrats to ‘point the gun at the enemy’ while specifically referring to our Mayor,” wrote party chair Karyn Morton Tuesday evening.

Morton continued: “At a time when our State and our City struggle with a rash of violent crime — including the recent murder of 7-year-old Tashawn Gallon — this veiled threat by Councilman Dennis is appalling. The voters of Jacksonville should be outraged!”

Morton added a “call for an immediate retraction and apology from Councilman Dennis and Democrat Chair Lisa King. All of us, regardless of Party, should demand better from our local elected leaders.”

Dennis thus far has not commented. King, however, rejected her Republican counterpart’s contentions.

“More hubris from REC Chairwoman Morton. Figures of speech don’t kill people. Guns do. On a day when 4 Republican members of the Duval Delegation voted to not even allow DEBATE on assault rifles while students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were in attendance, it appears to me that Morton has much more important matters to attend to.”

The language of armed conflict, surprisingly to outsiders, has become a feature of the contretemps between Dennis and Curry.

Weeks back, Dennis claimed a member of the mayor’s senior staff told him he was a “walking dead man.”

In response to that, Dennis got a concealed-weapons permit.

Curry, when asked Wednesday about Dennis’ comments, said that rhetoric notwithstanding, he would “work with any Council member for projects in their district.”

Curry has said on occasions recently that Dennis, in contrast to other Council members, has not lobbied him for district-level projects and priorities.

Privatization skeptics fill out Jacksonville JEA special committee

Privatization of JEA, which could net the city $3 to $6 billion, is still a hard sell to the Jacksonville City Council.

That’s why a special committee was formed Tuesday by Council President Anna Brosche, who roiled tempers in the Mayor’s Office and the Florida Times-Union editorial page when she didn’t allow Curry to speak “out of turn” at a special Council meeting on the subject of the valuation study.

The committee, per a memo from Brosche, has to report its findings by the end of June, when her presidency ends.

The special panel has more skeptics than proponents of a potential sale.

John Crescimbeni will chair the committee; Crescimbeni, like Brosche (also on the committee), is a skeptic of the sale and has said that a referendum should be held.

Also on the committee: Councilman Garrett Dennis, who is filing a bill this week that would force a straw ballot on the propriety of selling Jacksonville’s public utility.

Privatization, Dennis said Monday night at a meeting of Duval Democrats, would be “bad for our city … a cover for a shortfall for a bad pension plan that we were all duped into passing.”

Also of note: Dennis claims there is a “bounty” on five council members from the mayor’s office. Two of whom are Dennis and Brosche; committee member Danny Becton is a third who purportedly has a bounty on him.

Councilwoman Joyce Morgan rounds out the committee.

Per the memo: “The City of Jacksonville has significant infrastructure needs, some decades long and remaining unfulfilled, and also seeks to make economic development investments to create a vibrant and attractive community offering economic prosperity to all of its citizens. The net proceeds from a potential sale could yield the capital investment needed to accommodate such investments.”

“At the same time, there are potential downsides to selling the City of Jacksonville’s largest and most profitable asset: employing approximately 2,000 people, contributing significantly to our community in various ways not the least of which is an annual stream of revenue to the City of Jacksonville, maintaining a focus on ratepayers, and answering to the Mayor and City Council,” the memo continues.s the entire City Council should consider in its decision(s) related to a potential sale of JEA.

The committee will, at least in theory, allow council a better understanding of the path forward.

Brosche told us Tuesday that if the proposal is sound, it should clear the committee.

In a statement, Mayor Lenny Curry said he supported the decision to convene a special committee.

“I welcome the Council’s decision to further explore the valuation report presented during a meeting I convened with Council last week. As I expressed then and strongly maintain today, it is important that we follow a process that is thorough and transparent.  However, before there is any discussion on a sale or no sale of JEA, the valuation report laid bare an issue that must be dealt with,” Curry said.

“As previously reported by the Times Union, Plant Vogtle has ‘dimmed JEA’s future’; it is a liability to taxpayers. The valuation report has now put a number on that liability – $1.2 billion, which is a huge burden to taxpayers, rate payers, and JEA rank and file employees – all because of the decisions made by people eight or nine years ago.”

Councilman Tommy Hazouri, meanwhile, thinks that a sale is a bad idea.

“Unplug and reset,” Hazouri advises, “next year’s as good as this year.”

“I do not agree with selling it,” Hazouri said. The process is “not ready for prime time” and there’s “too many cooks in the kitchen.”


Constitution Revision Commission in Jacksonville: 37 proposals, 200+ speakers

The Constitution Revision Commission came to Jacksonville Tuesday for a marathon public hearing on the 37 proposals that are still live.

And some that weren’t, such as Proposal 22, perceived as an affront on abortion rights, and Proposal 62, which would allow for people to vote in primaries regardless of party identification. The green cards of support outweighed the red cards by a factor of 20.

“There are 3.4 million Floridians whose right to vote is denied,” said Jackie Bowman of St. Augustine on Proposal 62. “To me this looks like taxation without representation.”

Jackie Rock, a mosquito control commissioner from St. Johns County, bridged from closed primaries to consequences, noting that the Legislature did not pass a assault weapon ban, eliciting a gasp from the crowd.

The same held true for a non-existent proposal to ban assault weapons. Anytime a speaker sounded that theme, the green cards flapped.

If there was a leit motif to the six-hour meeting, it was a distinct lack of enthusiasm for proposals. The speakers by and large were respectful, the pyrotechnics of the Melbourne meeting on Monday largely absent.

Proposals 4 and 45, which would route public money to churches and private schools respectively, were denounced as a subversion of religious freedom via the no-aid clause by some speakers … and an expansion of religious freedom by others. (One man, claiming to be a preacher for the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” quipped that Proposal 4 would allow him to use state money to proselytize).

Linda Mann of the League of Women Voters opposed these and other proposals, including Proposal 43 (term limits for school boards), 71 (removing control of charters from school boards), and 72 (a supermajority vote for tax hikes), which she believes would erode public education.

Proposals 43 and 33 (an appointed school superintendent) were objected to by Danny Glover, School Superintendent of Taylor County. Gayle Cook, a School Board member from Nassau County, likewise spoke against those proposals.

Mann also, as was the case in Melbourne with the LVW rep there, called for an assault weapon ban in the Constitution. Green cards fluttered in the air.

Proposal 55 was lauded by Clay County Clerk of Courts Tara Green and Putnam County Clerk of Courts Tim Smith, who noted that traffic revenues are down, and the Legislature should make up the shortfall so that clerks of court can function.

Proposal 54, which removes Certificates of Need for certain health care facilities, saw numerous speakers seek to remove hospices from deregulation. Multiple representatives of St. Vincent’s Health Care went further, saying that the entire proposal shouldn’t be on the ballot.

Both panned and lauded: Proposal 88, the so called Nursing Home Bill of Rights. Former State Rep. Janet Adkins, who owns a facility, noted that if this passes, patients will move to unlicensed homes and insurance companies will make coverage more expensive and more difficult to get.

Late in the afternoon, multiple speakers broke down in tears, describing their own experiences with nursing homes. One speaker described her mother being dropped, and her hip broken.

“She began dying right then,” the speaker said of the fall.

Another described a grandmother who fell out of bed, lying in a pool of blood.

Greyhound racing was a hot talker also; Proposal 67 would ban betting on dog races.

“Racing dogs die,” said one speaker. Another speaker called it an “abusive and inhumane blood sport,” one with dwindling popularity. Still another said it more bluntly: “retire the greyhounds.”

A number of speakers, many of them from the business, counteracted these narratives, explaining how they take care of the dogs.

If 67 passed, one dog kennel owner said, “it would be a Holocaust for the dogs.”

Another gentleman talked about his seven-year-old rescue greyhound, Gus Gus, and his voice crackled with emotion as he said he couldn’t imagine what they are going through.

Also panned by multiple speakers: Proposal 94, which would move “Tobacco Free Florida” smoking cessation marketing funds to cancer research.

Proposal 96, a victims’ rights amendment, was described by Jacksonville lawyer Gray Thomas as a “solution in search of a problem” given that victims’ rights are already protected in Florida law.

The best laugh line of the afternoon: support for a proposal to ban offshore drilling.

The speaker, Jordan Bebout, was worried about the panel not getting the potential consequences; she told the committee “you may not be here in 20 years.”

And everyone in the room, on the panel and in the crowd alike, laughed aloud.

Jax Undersheriff, City Council talk ‘recent killings and violent events’

A Tuesday morning Jacksonville City Council panel greeted Jacksonville Undersheriff Pat Ivey.

Ivey, discussing the state of crime in the city, noted “recent killings and violent events.”

Specifically, the killing of Tashawn Gallon in Durkeeville.

“We have had multiple juveniles killed this year … no one should feel OK when that happens to a 7 year old,” Ivey said, adding that “the location where that occurred isn’t typical. We’ve had challenges at that exact address many times in the past.”

“Historically, when you have a shooting … a crime that can be tied back to narcotics, historically it’s hard to draw a connection between the two.”

It is difficult to say, Ivey said, that “your drug dealing caused a murder of a child.”

Rental properties can be difficult to police, Ivey said, and one way forward might be putting more “teeth” on “nuisance violations” to “really hold these owners accountable.”

Ivey was asked about the impact of increased police officers on the street.

“Not reality to say you put a policeman on every corner,” Ivey said, but a policeman nearby would have created a “deterrent factor.”

Council VP Aaron Bowman got pushback from Ivey when calling for people to walk the beat in troubled areas.

“You have a congregation of people outside at 9:30 every night,” Bowman said. “We can’t go on like this as a community.

Despite these, calls for service are down 7 percent, Ivey said, with 58,000 calls for service year to date. 911 is down 17.1 percent.

“Predominately when the weather gets warmer, that number tends to rise,” Ivey said.

Crime, aside from the “violence issue,” is down.

Traffic citations: 8,207 to date, with 2,500 year to date; down 1 percent.

On guns, Al Lawson is not an orthodox Democrat

The race between incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, as of this week, is focused on the issue of guns.

On Monday, Brown’s team found daylight between Lawson’s post-Parkland assertion “decrying ‘the stranglehold of the gun lobby'” and taking $2,500 from the political action committee of the National Rifle Association in August 2017.

Those familiar with the Brown camp’s thinking suggest that gun control will be a key issue in this race.

While the August primary is a long time away, what’s clear is that Lawson, who has an established record spanning decades, has taken a few positions on guns in the past that may prove inconvenient in 2018.

In 1993, for example, Lawson proposed something “drastic.”

Namely, that every household should have firearms, a proposal that Lawson told the Orlando Sentinel would “absolutely work.”

”We have to come out with something drastic. As state leaders, it is our responsibility to let people know they are not safe out there … I grew up in the country. Every household had a weapon. You didn’t have a problem with break-ins.”

By 2001, meanwhile, Lawson was out of step with his party on at least one bill. SB 412 prohibited governments from “frivolous and reckless” suits against gun manufacturers.

Lawson, per the NRA Institute for Legislative Action count, was the only Senate Democrat voting for the bill. The NRA thought that he and his GOP colleagues on the same side of the issue should be thanked; a form letter can still be sent from the website if one is inclined toward gratitude.

Lawson also is a past supporter of the Stand Your Ground law, albeit with caveats.

He voted for it in 2005, in a unanimous vote of the Florida Senate. Even after the killing of Trayvon Martin, Lawson still stood by the law, though he told the Miami Herald that it should be reviewed.

Lawson’s support for SYG was a “self-defense issue,” in part, the result of his wife being subject to a home invasion in 1996, per the Herald article.

Despite these positions, many of which sound out of step with the post-Parkland climate, Lawson currently has a zero percent rating with the NRA, which is a good indication of the homage the gun lobby demands.

However, in past election cycles, Lawson was at 50 percent on NRA issues, suggesting that his historical approach to guns was far from ideal, but something with which the gun lobby could work.

Perhaps that explains, to some degree, the NRA donation that Lawson now disputes.

The current climate, especially among Democrats, is one of aversion to the gun lobby.

Will that change between now and August?

Can Alvin Brown make Lawson’s old positions relevant in today’s climate?

Alvin Brown hammers Al Lawson for taking NRA ‘blood money’

Federal holidays don’t stop the hard hits in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

On Monday, as has been the case for weeks, challenger Alvin Brown laid into Rep. Al Lawson.

Then Lawson hit back. Then Brown hit back, yet again.

All of this over a $2,500 donation from the gun lobby that Brown says Lawson got and Lawson denies.

The genesis: the former Jacksonville Mayor noted, via a media release, that Lawson was the sole Florida Democrat to take money from the National Rifle Association.

“Despite Rep. Al Lawson’s statement last week decrying the ‘stranglehold of the gun lobby,’ Rep. Al Lawson is just another Washington politician who has taken campaign contributions from the NRA in return for inaction on gun violence. Late last year, Lawson proudly took $2,500 from the NRA — making Lawson the only member of Florida’s Democratic delegation to accept money from the gun lobby.”

Former Mayor Brown, as he did with Lawson’s decision to applaud President Donald Trump during the State of the Union, clearly relished the opportunity to paint Lawson as being outside the mainstream of the party.

“It is shameful that my opponent talks out of both sides of his mouth in an effort to score political points as families mourn the loss of their children. Unlike Al Lawson who hypocritically takes blood money from the NRA, I will never accept campaign contributions from the gun lobby. If Lawson wants any credibility on this issue, he must return the money he took from the NRA immediately,” Brown said.

Lawson responded Monday, saying flat out that Brown was “lying” about his record.

“Once again, Alvin Brown and his campaign are lying. Not only have I not taken any money from the National Rifle Association or any of its affiliates, I also have scored a zero on issues important to the NRA,” Lawson asserted, seemingly contradicting Q3 2017 reports.

“If Mr. Brown did some actual research, he would see that there are no contributions from the NRA on my campaign report, or any expenditures from the NRA, or their political action committees to my campaign,” Lawson added, saying that “Brown is trying to use this national tragedy to fundraise and revive his failed political career.”

Brown’s team came back with a link from OpenSecrets.Org that asserted that Lawson did in fact take $2,500 from the National Rifle Association.

Lawson’s team countered that the website is wrong. Though the Federal Elections Commission site seems to confirm the data, and does in fact show an Aug. 24 2017 donation.

“The website that Alvin is sourcing is incorrect. The documents that were attached in my previous email (and attached once more) are from the NRA. Why cite a secondhand source when you can get the information directly from the FEC form? Clearly, Mr. Brown is promoting a false claim simply for a headline.”

Lawson “welcomed” Brown to the race by saying he would retire the former Jacksonville mayor.

What’s clear is that things haven’t gotten more cordial between the two moderate Democrats. And, we hear, more is coming from the Brown camp this week.

Garrett Dennis talks ‘bounty’ on Jax Council members, filing JEA straw ballot bill

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis might have been considered by some to be a political “walking dead man” after his showdown at the Soul Food Bistro with Mayor Lenny Curry.

But Dennis sees it differently.

“That was a wake-up call for our mayor,” Dennis said.

As he told a crowd of Jacksonville Democrats Monday evening, the Duval Democrats are now a “party of relevance,” and colleagues from Northwest Jacksonville (Reggie GaffneyKatrina Brown, and Reggie Brown) are united with him — and against Curry, who deliberately eclipsed Dennis by calling a presser with Gaffney, Brown, and Brown in Dennis’ district without inviting Dennis.

“We have been spectators for 20 years in Jacksonville, but things are changing. We are back in the game,” Dennis said, advising Democrats not to “turn their guns on each other” but to “stand united as we fight, you know who we’re fighting, down at City Hall.”

“A couple of weeks ago, someone tried to divide us, but it didn’t work,” Dennis said. “There’s been a major disconnect” with a mayor who “has lost touch with reality.”

The disconnect was on issues, including children’s programs and fighting crime, Dennis said. And especially on JEA.

Privatization, Dennis said, would be “bad for our city … a cover for a shortfall for a bad pension plan that we were all duped into passing.”

Dennis will file legislation Wednesday for a JEA straw poll option, he said.

Also of note: Dennis claims there is a “bounty” on five Council members from the mayor’s office.

“The mayor, who we all know is a bully, has bounties on five Council members’ heads.”

Those Councilors: President Anna Brosche and Danny Becton, two Republicans, along with Democrats Dennis, Reggie Gaffney, and Katrina Brown.

“We cannot turn the gun on each other,” Dennis said.  “We must point the gun at the enemy.”

With a mysterious poll in the field gauging impressions of JEA privatization and Curry versus opponents (including Brosche and Dennis), what is clear is that the political gamesmanship will go both ways at least through the 2019 city elections.

Philip Levine rallies the troops for 2018 ‘war effort’ in Jacksonville

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a candidate for Governor, was in Jacksonville Monday evening to address Duval County Democrats.

Levine, on his second trip to Jacksonville in recent weeks, had a “living room” conversation earlier in the day. Even as Gwen Graham has a strong foothold in the area, what is clear is that Levine thinks Northeast Florida is in play as part of his “67 county strategy.”

Levine delivered an energetic intro, not unlike the beginning of the Phil Donahue show of yesteryear, rallying the crowd by saying the 2018 election is a “war effort” and “Florida is like Normandy,” before veering into autobiography.

Levine’s delivery during the autobiographical portion of the speech: generally much more Catskills-inflected than other candidates for Governor.

After discussing his unique approach to door knocking in condo buildings, Levine went into policy, addressing “sunny day flooding” in Miami Beach, noting that Jacksonville saw downtown flooding during Hurricane Irma.

“We got a lot of things done,” Levine said, including getting pumps and taking other resiliency measures such as raising roads for flooding, police reform, and codifying a “minimum living wage” in Miami Beach (which has led to lawsuits from stakeholders in the state).

Levine noted that, despite pressure to run again, he decided to “let someone else be Mayor.”

From there, the run for Governor. “The message has been resonating … I’ve been to towns you’ve never heard of … with a message many Democrats has never heard before.”

That message: deliberately “pro-business.” Levine notes that corporate HR policies tend to be progressive.

“Why wouldn’t we model this in Florida and do the same thing?”

Levine notes that his vision, one of aggressive corporate recruitment of the “right kinds of jobs,” differs from Rick Scott‘s vision of an “Applebee’s and Walmart on each corner.”

That, combined with his progressive record, is his sales pitch — a deliberate antidote, via an “authentic message,” to “25 years of losing elections.”

“The only way we’re going to win a general election is to make purple … mix red and blue,” Levine said.

Levine, in a brief Q&A, noted his opposition to assault weapons sales and sales of guns to the mentally ill, reprising themes from a letter to the leaders of the Florida Legislature last week in the wake of the Parkland shooting.

Overall, his remarks were well-received, with even City Council members in the crowd appreciating his words and his vision.

James Carville, Darren Soto feature at D.C. fundraiser for Nancy Soderberg

Democrat Nancy Soderberg, running in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, has D.C. connections — and they will be visible at a March 8 fundraiser.

The former Ambassador to the United Nations under the Bill Clinton administration will have a fellow Clinton alum as a special guest for that fundraiser in Washington: James Carville.

Carville managed the 1992 Clinton campaign, then moved into a role as the President’s senior political adviser. He is frequently seen these days on CNN.

Also on the host committee: U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, a Central Florida Democrat.

Soderberg 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. And a D.C. fundraiser will help in that regard.

Soderberg recently hired a campaign manager and field director, and she is testing the theory that the seat currently held by gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis can be flipped.

The seat is rated by politics guru Larry Sabato as “leans Republican,” a sign that Soderberg is being taken seriously as a candidate by national figures.

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