Jax Archives - Page 2 of 477 - Florida Politics

Pre-existing health conditions at issue in new Nancy Soderberg TV ads

Nancy Soderberg, the Democratic nominee to fill Ron DeSantis‘ open seat in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, rolled out two new TV spots Tuesday morning spotlighting health care differences between her and her opponent.

The first one, “Hung Up,” deals with difficulties in getting health insurance. In it, Soderberg mentions her accomplishments when she served as Alternate Representative to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton, with the rank of Ambassador.

“I helped start the conversation to bring peace to Northern Ireland, and I was one of the first to say ‘let’s get bin Laden,’ but when I called insurance companies looking for health coverage, they hung up on me because I have a pre-existing condition,” Soderberg said in the spot.

Those closely following Soderberg’s race with Republican nominee Mike Waltz will note that health coverage for pre-existing conditions has been a general election talking point for her. Her first ad, released last month, also highlighted her struggle to get health coverage as a diabetic.

“Everyone here in Florida deserves health insurance we can afford. That’s why I’m running for Congress,” Soderberg says.

The second spot, “Unavailable,” sets up a contrast with Waltz, beginning with a depiction of a constituent call to Waltz’s headquarters.

“Can you please tell me why Mike Waltz’s health care plan kicks 70,000 people off health insurance and raises health care costs for everyone else,” says one caller.

A second caller shreds Waltz for trying to “gut protections for pre-existing conditions.”

Eventually, callers are routed to an answering machine.

Soderberg, who has raised over $2 million in this race, has the resources to deploy thanks to her primary being much less costly than the three-way GOP race, which left Waltz with only $286K banked on Aug. 8. And she clearly sees room to move independent voters on the real differences in health care plans between Waltz and her.

Tracye Polson takes off gloves in new HD 15 ad

“What side is lobbyist Wyman Duggan on?”

That’s the question posed by the first television ad from Republican Duggan’s opponent in the House District 15 general election, Democrat Tracye Polson.

The 30-second spot contends that “Duggan worked to sell JEA, raising rates, costing the city millions every year” and “wants politicians to appoint our school board.”

The ad’s reference to Duggan working to sell JEA (lobbying for Emera, a Nova Scotia utility company that also owns TECO in Tampa) was rehearsed by a Republican opponent during the primary campaign last month. However, this is the first time the claim has been televised.

Polson, meanwhile, draws a contrast to that world of influence with her upbeat narration, noting she stands “with students, who deserve great public schools; with an elected school board, with law enforcement … and as a cancer survivor and health professional, with patients.”

“My opponent can stand with the other lobbyists. I’ll always stand with Florida’s families,” Polson says in close.

The Polson ad, on television in her Westside Jacksonville district, can be seen here.

In the race to succeed Jay Fant in HD 15, Polson had (as of Aug. 31) a cash advantage: $187.000 on hand, to just $7,000.

Expect the cavalry to come to Duggan’s rescue soon enough, as Republicans are increasingly cognizant that this seat — safe through 2016 — is now in play.

Fant faced no Democratic challenge in 2016, remarkable given that Democrats actually outnumber Republicans in the district.

Jeremy Ring courts Jacksonville Democrats Monday night

Margate Democrat Jeremy Ring, a former state Senator and current Democratic nominee for Chief Financial Officer, will address Jacksonville Democrats tonight.

Ring will speak to the Duval Democrats at their normal monthly meeting (held at the IBEW Union Hall) at 6 p.m. Monday evening.

Ring is running against incumbent Panama City Republican Jimmy Patronis, a gubernatorial appointee running for his first term.

Patronis, who did not face a primary challenge, is well-capitalized, with over $5 million banked. Ring will not match that fundraising.

When we talked to Ring in late August, he contended that fundraising would not determine how the campaign would go.

Ring noted that with candidates for Senate and Governor running, and Constitutional amendments on the ballot, spending is “already up over $200 million.”

“So, $4 million or whatever buys you maybe a week and a half of TV,” Ring said. “But we’re all going to get lost in the clutter. And the clutter’s no longer just television — it’s digital, it’s scattered, it’s everything.”

“I’m not convinced that anyone [running downballot] is going to be able to break through the amount of money that’s going to be spent,” Ring predicted. “The cluttered environment is going to make it very difficult for anyone that doesn’t have $50 million, $100 million to spend.”

Polls of the race earlier this summer reflected an undefined race. Public Policy Polling had Ring up by five points; the Patronis-friendly Florida Chamber had Patronis up by nine.

Jacksonville to expand early voting sites to University of North Florida, Edward Waters College

Activists wanted early voting at Edward Waters College and the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. And now they’ve got it.

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan confirmed such in an email to Jacksonville City Council members Monday, noting that “sites will be open to all eligible registered Duval County voters. These two additional sites will provide Duval County voters access to 20 Early Voting locations.”

“Funding for the two additional Early Voting sites will be absorbed within my currently requested budget,” Hogan noted.

This made a piece of legislation — a proposal by Councilman Garrett Dennis to allocate $30,000 to expand early voting sites to Edward Waters College and the University of North Florida — “unnecessary,” per Hogan.

Florida Atlantic University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of South Florida are all slated to host early voting before Election Day this year.

Dennis moved to withdraw the bill, noting an email from Hogan committing to open the sites.

 

Jacksonville homeless rights bill on pause

Monday morning, Jacksonville City Council Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety committee put the brakes on a long-tabled bill.

But it will be back.

The  Homeless Bill of Rights measure was introduced by now suspended (and federally indicted) Councilwoman Katrina Brown months back.

The bill (2018-308) contends that “the basic rights all people should enjoy must be guaranteed for homeless individuals and families,” and attempts to “assure that basic human rights are not being trampled simply because someone happens to be homeless.”

Since Brown’s sabbatical from Council began, her fellow Democrats Tommy Hazouri and Garrett Dennis were tasked with carrying the bill.

Hazouri told us ahead of the meeting that Dennis was going to rewrite the legislation, so the bill was to be pulled.

“He’s coming out with a new bill,” Hazouri urged the committee.

Currently, there is no timetable set for the new bill.

Florida AFL-CIO backs Nancy Soderberg’s congressional bid

The Florida AFL-CIO endorsed Amb. Nancy Soderberg Friday in the race for Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

Soderberg, a Democrat, is up against Republican Mike Waltz for the right to fill Ron DeSantis‘ former spot in the U.S. House.

“The Florida AFL-CIO is proud to endorse Nancy Soderberg for the US Congress on behalf of the more than one million workers, retirees, and family members we are fortunate to represent,” Mike Williams, President of the Florida AFL-CIO, said.

“Florida’s Labor family knows that we need a new delegation in Washington, one that puts the needs of workers ahead of the corporate special interests and political insiders. Nancy, with her bold vision and determination, is going to be a part of that delegation, and our members are looking forward to being a part of the team that makes that happen.”

“To have the endorsement of the Florida AFL-CIO is an incredible honor,” Soderberg said. “As a U.S. Ambassador, I fought for human rights around the world. I am deeply concerned by the barrage of threats to workers’ rights that are becoming commonplace in this country. I’m running for Congress to be a champion for Florida workers from day one,” Williams added

Though the district has been historically Republican, Soderberg has reasons for confidence.

The former Clinton-era Ambassador to the United Nations has raised over $2 million (nearly double Waltz’s haul), and is polling in a dead heat with Waltz, a former Green Beret and aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Jacksonville celebrates bond rating milestone, as JEA credit trends south

This week, Jacksonville celebrated a milestone in its history of bond ratings: its first standalone AAA rating. Meanwhile, its local utility suffered a setback.

On Monday, CFO Mike Weinstein emailed that the city “received notification that Fitch Ratings has upgraded to ‘AAA’ from ‘AA’ the City’s excise tax revenue bonds.”  

“Our records show this is the first time in City of Jacksonville history that the City, or any of its revenue pledges, has received an ‘AAA’ rating from a major rating agency on a standalone basis,” Weinstein observed.

“This is exciting news for our City!  Not only is it confirmation that the strong fiscal management you established is being recognized by the financial community at large, but it is also proof that the Jacksonville economy is vibrant and growing,” Weinstein added.

“This is a tremendous win for the City of Jacksonville,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “I’m proud of the history we are making by bringing strong fiscal management to our city. My administration will remain consistent in our commitment to respect the hard-work of taxpayers.”

In less “tremendous” news that was not trumpeted with a press release, Friday also brought word that Standard and Poor’s put local utility JEA on a “negative credit watch,” as Florida Times-Union reporter Nate Monroe noted.

“In our view, JEA’s assertions that its board acted beyond the scope of its authority raises questions about the quality of the utility’s internal controls,” S&P analyst David Bodek said, per the Times-Union

“In our opinion, the utility’s legal claims seeking to repudiate the board’s actions after a decade call into question the utility’s willingness to meet its contractual financial obligations.”

The JEA Board agreed to purchase power from the under construction Plant Vogtle in Georgia in 2008. The plant has had delays and increased costs in construction, and the current leadership of the utility filed suit to get out of the deal — which did not play well with S&P.

Notably, the city’s press release hyping the credit upgrade dropped at the same time reports of the S&P hit on JEA dropped.

Since Lenny Curry took over as mayor in July 2015, the city has strengthened its financial standing.

In 2015, Curry noted that if the city didn’t address its unfunded pension liability, the city could be like Detroit by 2020.

The first Curry capital improvement plan was lean, a measure of money encumbered by the city’s spiraling pension liability.

While the pension liability is still spiraling (north of $3.2 billion now), relief occurred when the city ratified a pension reform plan that moved people hired after October 2017 to defined contribution plans — rather than the defined benefit iterations that caused the city such fiscal strain.

That ratified reform lowered the city’s contribution from an expected $360 million in FY 17-18 to $221 million, reamortizing the debt and structuring paydown to start in 2030, when the Better Jacksonville Plan would be paid off; the ½ cent sales surtax currently dedicated to that capital improvement plan of the turn of the century will instead be moved to old pension debts.

The near-term salutary effects of the restructuring can be seen in the latest proposed budget, slated to be ratified later this month. Ratings agencies like the fact that the city “stopped the bleeding,” instituted a defined contribution plan, and identified a revenue source.

As compared to the $1.19 billion general fund budget in FY 16-17, and the $1.27 billion budget last year, the general fund budget is up this year to $1.31 billion.

That’s thanks to pension reform, which the Mayor’s Office says contributes to $331 million of savings over two years.

“Without pension reform,” Curry said, “millions and millions of dollars would be diverted away from making our city better.”

A big part of the spend: capital improvements. FY 18-19 will see $161.4 million allocated to improvements, with big spends on Hart Bridge offramp removal ($12.5 million from the city matching the same sum from the state), a new fire station ($5 million), road resurfacing ($12 million), money for infrastructure at U.F. Health ($15 million, part of a $120 million commitment) and sidewalk projects (many of them delayed for years).

The CIP, at $161.4 million, doubles Curry’s first CIP of $72 million, and comes at a time where the city is investing heavily in police, fire, and children’s services via the “Kids Hope Alliance” — a Curry-devised umbrella organization that oversees spending on children from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds.

There have been worries about the city’s financial position in the past: a bill introduced in Council last year would have set aside year-over-year portions of increases in general fund revenue and apply them to the unfunded liability, with that portion eventually capping out at 15 percent of yearly revenue hikes.

That bill was floated because there were worries that the city could face a $10 billion unfunded liability by the time the ½ cent Better Jacksonville Plan sale tax was repurposed to tackling that deferred bill.

The Curry administration was adamantly opposed.

“We’re done with pension reform,” said more than one official.

And as far as the ratings agencies are concerned, the city’s approach is vindicated in one sense.

The question that many will be watching, both for the 2019 elections and beyond: how does the city’s financial position translate into dealing with historic inequities, with many older neighborhoods on the Northside, Westside, Arlington, and the Southside dealing with issues ranging from poverty and poor education to subpar infrastructure.

And a corollary question, especially in light of the JEA gambit: will the mayor’s office be seen as liable for the issues at the local utility, which is now run by a Curry ally, and which has a board stocked with Curry picks?

Certainly, potential opponents for Curry — such as Councilors Garrett Dennis and Anna Brosche — will frame it as such.

Matt Caldwell to make campaign swing through Jacksonville Saturday

Republican Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner nominee Matt Caldwell will be introducing himself to Jacksonville voters Saturday, making his first general election swing through Northeast Florida.

Caldwell will be at the local Republican Party of Florida HQ (10111-6 San Jose Blvd.) at 10 a.m. for a meet and greet.

Caldwell emerged from a competitive primary, and in the Jacksonville market, he finished second to Baxter Troutman, whose campaign was managed by local Carlo Fassi and was endorsed by Mayor Lenny Curry.

However, he made up for it elsewhere, winning 43 counties statewide.

However, the primary is in the rear view mirror, and Republicans would likely agree that the differences between Caldwell and Democratic nominee Nikki Fried indeed are stark.

In the first couple of weeks since the nominations were decided, campaign discourse has revolved around the issue of medical cannabis — an outlier compared to previous general election campaigns.

Fried, a lobbyist for the increasingly well-capitalized companies in the sphere, has contended that smokable cannabis should be offered to medical patients — a position now so firmly ensconced in the Democratic orthodoxy that even Sen. Bill Nelson espouses it.

Caldwell, who voted for the implementation legislation, thinks smoke is a draw too far: “…smoking is not a medicinal delivery system…[the smoking lawsuit] is just a fig leaf for full recreational use…”

Though it’s uncertain if the issue of medical cannabis will move voters in November, what’s clear is that polls show voters more closely align with Fried’s position on the issue. 66 percent believe that medical patients should be able to smoke cannabis, while 24 percent align with the Caldwell position.

Polling between Fried and Caldwell is much closer, however; per St. Pete’s Polls, Fried is up by 1.8 percent.

Through Aug. 31, Fried was up in the cash on hand race, with $220,000 compared to $72,000 for Caldwell, who faced a much more competitive primary than the Democrat.

Jacksonville Bold for 9.14.18 — Time marches on

The primaries are now well behind us.

The parties have unified. Ops for losing candidates have moved into other campaigns (or endeavors).

If you pay attention, there is — at times — a crispness in the morning air.

And while that coolness may be fleeting, it’s an augury of the inevitable march of time.

The days will shorten. By late October, we will have a sense of who is in the best position to win state races — including a state House and a local Congressional race, each of which could be an augury of the oft-discussed “blue wave.”

Campaign season feels endless during the primary slog. But as we get inside of eight weeks before the general election, the news cycles speed up, and what was hypothetical moves ever closer toward the inevitable.

DeSantis leaves Congress

Per Fox News, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis has resigned from Congress, with the pressures of the gubernatorial campaign requiring a full-time commitment to the race.

More of this for Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis, whose district runs from St. Johns County south past Daytona, was a third-term Republican.

DeSantis sent a letter Monday to House Speaker Paul Ryan announcing his immediate resignation.

“As the Republican nominee for Governor of Florida, it is clear to me that I will likely miss the vast majority of our remaining session days for this Congress. Under these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to accept a salary,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis’ Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, has not indicated he would resign his post in kind.

Soderberg builds momentum

While it’s by no means certain that Ambassador Nancy Soderberg will be successful in her Congressional bid, the facts are that she is showing a lot of strength as the general election campaign kicks off.

Nancy Soderberg expects to win the money race in CD 6.

Soderberg’s campaign crossed the $2 million threshold on the strength of over 7,500 contributions this election cycle, a campaign release trumpeted Monday.

“We continue to be blown away by the grassroots support driving our campaign,” Soderberg said.

Soderberg’s Republican opponent, Mike Waltz, a former Green Beret and aide to VP Dick Cheney, has raised over $1 million for the campaign, and doesn’t expect to have to raise that much to beat Soderberg in a district that has voted Republican in the last two election cycles, including +17 for President Donald Trump.

On Monday, Soderberg’s campaign produced a poll showing the race too close to call. Waltz’s campaign was skeptical, suggesting that Democrats may have been oversampled to get that result.

Bean cash haul

State Sen. Aaron Bean, whose district encompasses Nassau and part of Duval County, crossed the $200,000 cash on hand threshold as of his latest finance report.

Four more years? We’ll know in eight weeks.

Bean brought in $2,525 to his campaign account and $6,666 to that of his Florida Conservative Alliance political committee between Aug. 24 — 31. He has just over $100,000 in his campaign account and another $102,000+ in his committee kitty.

The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters donated the maximum $1,000 to his campaign account, offering the most locally notable name on his donor roll.

Regarding the $6,666 to his committee account, that came from Spring Hill Hospital and Brooksville Hospital, both sharing an address in Antioch, Tennessee.

Bean’s opponents face cash flow deficits compared to the incumbent.

Democrat Billee Bussard, a Jacksonville journalist of long standing, raised $1,660 in the week between Aug. 24 — 31. She has nearly $5,000 on hand.

Libertarian Joanna Tavares has not raised money, and has $40 on hand.

Senate District 4 has a strong GOP plurality. Of its just over 360,000 voters, almost 175,000 are Republicans, with 94,000+ Democrats and the rest being NPAs.

Polson builds cash lead 

Democrat Tracye Polson is confident in her ability to take what is now a Republican-held seat in House District 15, and that confidence will only be bolstered after the latest financial reports in the race.

The Blue Wave may spill over the banks of the St. Johns into Jacksonville’s Westside.

During the period from Aug. 24 to 31, Polson stretched her lead over Wyman Duggan, a Republican lobbyist whose backing from the Jacksonville establishment has not translated into winning the money race.

Polson brought in $6,042 to her campaign account, giving her $145,000+ in hard money. She also raised $3,100 for her committee account, which now has $41,000 on hand.

Duggan, conversely, raised $187,000 ahead of a primary, which he won with just 40 percent of the vote despite being the only candidate on television, with over $100,000 committed to ads where Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry vouched for the candidate.

He has less than $7,000 on hand now, with no money raised in the week after the primary. Polson has, at least for the moment, a more than 25-to-1 cash on hand edge over the establishment candidate.

Despite the cash lead, expect Polson to keep pushing. She knows that the machine never runs out of gas.

Fischer draws $11K in one week

While Duggan may have some issues, another Curry ally is winning his own fundraising war.

Jason Fischer isn’t wasting time amassing resources against a Dem challenger.

State Rep. Jason Fischer, a first-term Republican from Jacksonville, faces a general election challenge — and judging from the first week of post-primary fundraising, he takes it seriously.

Between his campaign account and that of his political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville, Fischer brought in $11,000 in the week leading up to Aug. 31, giving him roughly $200,000 on hand as he faces his first election against Democratic opposition.

Fischer’s campaign account saw $10,000 of the action, buoyed by donors with organizational interests, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Rep. Travis Hutson‘s First Coast Business Foundation political committee, and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Fischer’s opponent, retired CSX lifer Ken Organes, is at a cash disadvantage, with just over $31,000 on hand as of Aug. 31.

HD 16 is decidedly GOP, with 55,612 Republicans compared to 35,750 Democrats and 27,788 NPA voters.

Curry favored by donors, again

Curry has raised over $2.5 million for his re-election bid next year, after $221,000 in August receipts between his campaign account and that of his Jacksonville on the Rise political committee.

Lenny Curry calls this part of the campaign ‘just staying warm.’

Curry’s campaign account took in $33,000 of that number; it now has $428,730 raised, with over $414,000 on hand. The committee raked in $188,000, boosting it to $2.138 million raised and $1.66 million on hand.

The committee donors reflect a statewide interest in Curry’s re-election, exemplified best by the First Amendment Fund (a committee primarily funded by the committees of Sens. Joe Negron and Bill Galvano and Rep. Gayle Harrell) going $25,000 deep.

Local interest abounds also. The Rogers Towers funded Committee for Economic Development and Advocates for Business Growth accounts donated, as did the JAXBIZ political committee of the Jacksonville Chamber.

Thus far, Curry faces nominal competition for the March election. Between them, his four opponents have raised less than $2,500.

Speculation swirled that Jacksonville City Councilwoman Anna Brosche (a Republican like Curry) was to file this week, and some of those speculators contend she has over a million dollars in commitments should she run.

Former Times-Union columnist (and seeming future campaign asset) Ron Littlepage poured petrol onto the fire Monday evening.

Parental leave props

The conservative Washington Examiner lauded Jacksonville’s soon-to-be-ratified policy ensuring six weeks of parental leave for new biological parents under city employ.

National plaudits for Lenny Curry’s latest policy reform.

“Only three states require paid parental leave: Rhode Island, California, and New Jersey. This development in Florida is exceptional because the mayor has found a way to offer it to his employees, without being forced to, and in a way that doesn’t cost taxpayers additional funds,” the Examiner contends.

“Paid parental leave is a controversial topic, particularly among conservatives, who are usually against it, because politicians usually want a state to force employers to offer it or raise taxes to pay for it,” the editorial continues, noting that Curry’s friend Marco Rubio is one of the few conservatives to push for the policy on a federal level.

Firefighters make NYC trip

WJXT offered the best report in the local market on last weekend’s trip to New York for the Jaguars’ season opener. Curry and local firefighters were on hand.

Lenny Curry with fire union members before the Jags’ season opener.

Firefighters make the pilgrimage every year, commemorating the first responders whose lives were taken on 9/11/2001. This year, with the Jags playing in East Rutherford, things went a bit different, courtesy of Jaguar defender Malik Jackson.

“When he heard Jacksonville firefighters were going up to the 9/11 ceremony, he provided them with custom jerseys and tickets to the game between the Jaguars and Giants. He even met up with them on the sidelines for photos,” WJXT reports.

Morgan gets establishment nod

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan faces a former two-term Councilman, Bill Bishop, in her re-election bid.

Joyce Morgan, a pragmatic Democrat, looks to have support from the machine against Bill Bishop.

After one month of running an active campaign, Morgan, a Democrat representing the Arlington area, has taken the cash lead over the stalled-out operation of Bishop, who is just three years removed from drawing nearly 20 percent citywide in the Mayor’s race.

The Morgan/Bishop race is the latest piece of evidence that political prominence in Jacksonville can be an ephemeral thing.

Bishop abandoned his citywide run for an easier race earlier this year, but Morgan’s early momentum suggests that even a district race may prove daunting for his political comeback.

From the Jacksonville Jaguars and owner Shad Khan to the powerful bestbet empire and the Fraternal Order of Police, what’s clear is that the donor class backs Morgan over Bishop.

Morgan raised $15,697 and has nearly $14,500 in hand after her first month’s fundraising, which puts her over the peripatetic Bishop operation, which continues to combine slow fundraising and high recurring costs.

Bishop has just over $12,000 on hand after 11 months of fundraising, including a $700 haul in August that merely defrayed some of the costs of his campaign consulting.

Bishop and Morgan are the only two candidates in the District 1 race.

Fiorentino, Delaney named Florida’s ‘most influential’

The Fiorentino Group’s Marty Fiorentino and John Delaney are among those listed on Florida Trend’s inaugural list of the 500 Most Influential Floridians.

In establishing the roster, Florida Trend began with categories used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Also, there were some rules of thumb: No elected officials, and no more than three people from any one firm.

Marty Fiorentino
Mr. Influential, Marty Fiorentino.

Both Fiorentino and Delaney — a former Jacksonville Mayor and recently retired as president of the University of North Florida — made the cut in the category “professional services.”

“When I was chairman of the Jacksonville Port Authority, we created separate airport and seaport authorities,” Florida Trend quotes Fiorentino in his entry. “This was a big community issue and was greatly debated. It took a lot of outreach and advocacy to get this done.”

Delaney is noted as part of a “collaborative governmental relations effort between the Fiorentino Group, one of the city’s leading consulting and advocacy groups, and Rogers Towers, an old-line law firm that’s a fixture in Jacksonville.”

Personnel notes

Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, some big names have board action.

“The Jacksonville Port Authority elected four officers to its board of directors. Chair John Falconetti, chairman and CEO of Jacksonville-based Drummond Press Inc.; vice chair John Baker, executive chairman of FRP Holdings Inc.; treasurer Jamie Shelton, president of Bestbet Jacksonville; and secretary Wendy Hamilton, president, Eventide Investments of Florida Inc,” the JDR reports.

Additionally, “Kerri Stewart, JEA’s chief customer officer, joined Groundwork Jacksonville’s board of directors. Before joining JEA, Stewart served as chief of staff for Curry and chief administrative officer for Mayors John Peyton and Alvin Brown.

On the campaign side, Jenny Busby (the former aide to Tommy Hazouri and U.S. Rep. Al Lawson) will be on the ground this fall helping Polson in the HD 15 race. Busby is the second Hazouri aide to be enlisted in the Polson quest (Haleigh Hutchison being the first).

Groups unite for affordable senior housing

Aging True, a nonprofit organization that provides senior housing services, and Tampa workforce housing developer Blue Sky Communities are receiving $16.6 million in federal funding to renovate a third Aging True senior apartment building in downtown Jacksonville.

Cathedral Townhouse, a 50-year old 177-unit apartment building located at 501 North Ocean Street, will receive an update of its major building systems, life safety, accessibility, and energy efficiency. All units will receive new kitchens, lighting, flooring, and upgrades of plumbing and electrical systems and exterior painting. The work is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2019 and be completed by late next year.

Cathedral Terrace Apartments is getting a facelift.

Renovation of Cathedral Townhouse is the third Aging True senior affordable apartment building renovated by Blue Sky.

In 2016, Blue Sky completed a $10 million renovation of Cathedral Terrace, a 240-unit tower built in 1974 and located 701 North Ocean Street. Funding for the project came from Florida Housing Finance Corp. 4% tax credits, Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority and the City of Jacksonville State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP).

This year, Blue Sky will complete the $12 million in renovations for Cathedral Tower, a 203-unit apartment building located at 601 North Newnan Street that was built in 1968.

UNF named a ‘Best Regional University’

For the eighth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has named the University of North Florida among its “best regional” universities in the South.

UNF was ranked No. 42 in the region this year, up six spots from last year. The university was also ranked No. 14 in the “Top Public Schools” list, No. 29 in the “Best Colleges for Veterans” list, No. 58 in the list of the “Best Value Schools,” and No. 82 in the list of “Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs.”

UNF: Among the nation’s best regional universities.

“I take great pride in being able to lead a university that is of the caliber of the University of North Florida,” UNF President David Szymanski told WJCT. “The University is showing up in nearly every national college ranking, putting UNF at the top of some very impressive lists. These accolades are a true testament to our outstanding faculty and staff as well as the talents of our phenomenal students.”

In its rankings, U.S. News & World Report use a combination of a school’s academic reputation, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni donations.

Jacksonville Zoo offers discounted admission for Hurricane Florence evacuees

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is offering $10 general admission to the Zoo to evacuees from Hurricane Florence. The discount applies at the gates to those with IDs from Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Hurricane Florence could bring 24 hours of hurricane conditions to Carolinas.

As Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens recovered from damage sustained from Hurricane Irma one year ago, the Zoo understands that routines can be disrupted, particularly when people are away from home and worried.

A day at the Zoo can be just the thing to lift spirits.

To entertain those seeking shelter from Florence, the zoo is celebrating the opening of the great ape African Forest exhibit, and Dinosauria in its final weeks. Also, the Fiesta del Jaguar event is set for Saturday, Sept. 15.

The Zoo would also like to extend good luck to all the zoos and aquariums in the path of the storm and the dedicated keepers who are there to take care of their animals.

For more information on the fun happenings at the Zoo, visit www.jacksonvillezoo.org.

Jags’ much-anticipated rematch with Patriots almost here

Sunday will mark 237 days since that Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, Massachusetts when the Jacksonville Jaguars were five minutes away from going to the Super Bowl. Jacksonville was hanging onto a 20-17 lead over the New England Patriots, but could not hang on long enough, especially with Tom Brady on the other side of the ball.

The lead should have been bigger earlier in the period when Jags’ linebacker Myles Jack stripped Dion Lewis of the ball for a fumble and had clear sailing into the end zone and a 27-10 lead. The officials inexplicably said Jack was down, so no touchdown and eventually, no Super Bowl.

For Jaguars fans, Myles Jack wasn’t down.

Jaguars’ fans have been waiting for Sunday’s appearance by Brady and the Patriots since the day the schedule was announced in the spring. So have the Jaguars’ players.

Myles Jack wasn’t down” shirts, posters and maybe even a flyover, will be present in and around TIAA Bank Stadium. The noise level will be as great as it has ever been.

In other words, imagine tens of thousands of Jalen Ramseys out there.

This is as good of a time as any to play the Patriots, who are without their star wide receiver Julian Edelman as he serves a four-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. Other Patriots are also dinged up, but all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski is ready to go and will be targeted early and often by Brady.

For the Jaguars, workhorse running back Leonard Fournette is nursing a sore hamstring, which could press T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant into leading roles if Fournette cannot play. Coach Doug Marrone said, “we’re going to give it some time and see where we are when it’s time to start testing it.”

That would be some time Friday, which means it could be a game-time decision on whether the second-year back can give it a try. If not, the backup running backs will be counted upon, or if that doesn’t work, call on quarterback Blake Bortles to pass the Jags to victory, or the league’s top defense may be able to add some points themselves.

While winning Sunday will not compensate the painful loss in January, it can put a good-sized Band-Aid over the wound.

Cultural Council role won’t derail Michael Boylan’s bid for Jacksonville City Council

Jacksonville City Council candidate Michael Boylan, the former CEO of WJCT, is poised to become interim director of the city’s Cultural Council.

The organization helps to facilitate arts endeavors, and is funded by the City of Jacksonville as well as by numerous state government entities.

Boylan, who is just six months from an election against Republican Rose Conry, noted Thursday that while it was “premature” to assume the posting was a “done deal,” he could serve in a short-term role and still run for City Council.

“For the past nine months I have served as the (volunteer) Chair of the Northeast Florida Long Term Recovery Organization without the benefit of a full time administrator which we were able to bring on in August and through it all I don’t believe my campaign efforts were compromised,” Boylan told us.

“As to serving as the interim head of the Cultural Council, I first must note that board has not yet voted on my hiring (my understanding is that they meet next Thursday) so it’s a bit premature to assume it’s a done deal,” Boylan said.

“In the event that it is approved, however, it will be with the understanding that it will be a part time role (20 hours/week) with a likely term of only three months, and truly in an interim capacity with no aspirations of holding that role on a long term basis,” Boylan added.

“For now it’s an opportunity to fill a significant community void as I did with NFLTRO. I still firmly believe it clear that my energy and focus will be fully on my run,” Boylan said.

Boylan is not looking for the permanent gig; he seeks to “fill a temporary void.”

“I still believe I can best serve this community on the Council where I can impact policy,” Boylan added.

Boylan currently is somewhat behind Conry in the fundraising race in the Southside/Mandarin district.

In the past two months, he has raised just $2,245, and has just under $41,000 on hand.

Conry, who has over $83,000 on hand, raised $7,100 in August alone.

We reached out to Conry and the Cultural Council for their takes regarding an active candidate for office taking this position, but neither returned requests for comment.

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