Jax – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Rose Conry stretches cash edge over Michael Boylan in Jacksonville City Council race

More of the same in June in what is still a two-person race in Jacksonville City Council’s District 6.

Rose Conry still holds the money lead over former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan, as two Republicans vie to succeed termed-out Matt Schellenberg.

And cash on hand sees Conry with an almost 2-1 advantage. Conry raised $86,585 and has over $77,000 on hand. Boylan raised $61,150 with just over $42,000.

Boylan, who is raising less than his opponent over time, is spending more in aggregate.

In June, Conry actually raised less than Boylan, though the $4,500 she brought in included checks from U.S. Rep. John Rutherford (who shares a political consultant, Tim Baker), and Rep. Travis Cummings‘ committee “First Coast Conservatives.” She spent just $290 in the month.

Boylan, who outraised Conry in June, brought in $7,700. The most interesting donor on the list: Sleiman Holdings.

Local developer Toney Sleiman endorsed Alvin Brown over Lenny Curry in 2015, and since Curry’s election, Sleiman and the city have sparred over the dilapidated Jacksonville Landing — a feud that is now in court. Conry is Curry’s candidate; Boylan apparently is Sleiman’s.

Boylan spent almost as much as he raised ($7,011), with the bulk of the costs being on printing campaign materials and renting a venue for his campaign launch.

​Jacksonville City Council money race tightens between Sunny Gettinger, Randy DeFoor

The Jacksonville City Council District 14 race, a Riverside/Avondale/Ortega seat, continued in June with active fundraising from the leading candidates.

While Republican Randy DeFoor remains the cash leader, Democrat Sunny Gettinger gained ground again last month, setting the stage for what will be a costly race (at least by district Council standards), which likely won’t be decided until the May general election.

Gettinger, in the race for five months, never raised less than $10,000; June was no exception.

The Ivy-educated former chair of Riverside Avondale Preservation, professionally a communications manager for Google Fiber, raked in $15,835 off 69 contributions.

Among the bigger names cutting June checks: former Councilwoman Ginny Myrick and Sherry Magill, the former executive director of the non-profit Jessie Ball DuPont Fund.

Worth noting: Magill, an ally of former City Council President Anna Brosche, was co-chair of a Council task force, whose final report was heavily critical of Mayor Lenny Curry‘s administration regarding transparency issues.

Despite nearly $80,000 on hand, Gettinger will have to continue outperforming DeFoor to attain parity. Even after a month where DeFoor, a senior vice president and National Agency Counsel for Fidelity National Financial, raised just $9,800 between her campaign account and that of her political committee, the Republican still has over $142,000 on hand.

Also, DeFoor is attracting the kinds of hard money donors who, if inclined, are comfortable ponying up soft money on the committee side. Among them: Shad Khan and his Jacksonville Jaguars, W.W. Gay, Stellar, and Build Something That Lasts, Curry’s political committee.

The field is five people strong, with three male candidates behind the women in terms of finance.

Democrat Jimmy Peluso, yet to file June numbers at this writing, raised more than $26,000 in May. Republican Earl Testy stalled out with $164 in the bank; newly registered Henry Mooneyhan has yet to report any fundraising.

Bill Bishop fundraising woes continue in Jacksonville City Council bid

Jacksonville City Council candidate Bill Bishop dropped his at-large bid in favor of a district race last month.

There seemed to be pragmatic reasons for the move; Bishop was losing in fundraising to fellow Republican Ron Salem.

The race, in Arlington’s District 1, had no filed candidates (though all expectations are that incumbent Democrat and vice-chair of the Finance Committee, Joyce Morgan, will file for re-election).

Morgan, some have whispered, may meet donor class resistance this campaign, after floating a trial balloon that would increase regulatory burdens on commercial landlords (as reported by the Jacksonville Daily Record).

However, whether or not donors fall in behind Morgan, what’s clear is that they haven’t rushed to support Bishop, at least if June numbers are meaningful.

In June, Bishop raised $1,790 (his best haul since February), and spent $1,510; he now has just over $11,700 on hand.

The one bright spot for Bishop, a potential augury of some donor class support: $1,000 from Preston Haskell.

Bishop’s operation has been characterized by a high burn rate, with a regular $1,500 monthly fee to the RLS Group for campaign management eating into the nearly $26,000 raised.

Confederate monument discussion could re-open in Jacksonville

In the wake of violence in Charlottesville last year, former Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche compelled the city’s parks and recreation department to “inventory” Confederate monuments and markers on city property.

The goal: “propose legislation to move Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers from public property to museums and educational institutions where they can be respectfully preserved and historically contextualized.”

That legislation never materialized in the 2017-18 Council term, and Brosche told us Monday that she wasn’t planning to file any.

However, 14 members of the Task Force on Civil Rights History Brosche convened during her presidency asserted last week in a memo that the process of discussion (one that smoldered in public comment despite a lack of legislation) should be resumed.

The Confederate monument discussion was not part of the task force charge; however, it was an issue that members such as Hope McMathRodney Hurst, and Richard Danforth believe merits discussion.

The memo notes that since 1898, Hemming Park has been home to a 62-foot monument to Confederate soldiers. The monument loomed over the carnage of 1960’s “Axe Handle Saturday,” where marauding whites assaulted African-American shop patrons.

Now, with City Hall just outside the park, and a “bustling arts district” around the park, the memo’s signatories assert a gap between where the city is going and the placement of the monument. Moving the monument, per the memo, would help to create a “public square that is open and welcoming to all.”

“Many Jacksonville residents believe that the reason for the Confederate monument’s placement was to serve as a reminder to former slaves and descendants of their ‘place in society’,” the memo asserts.

The signatories do not want the monument destroyed, but removed and recontextualized.

Current City Council President Aaron Bowman seems to be mulling a path forward. In a text Monday morning, he asserted that “you’ll probably see something in a few days.” He would not offer additional detail as to what that “something” was, however.

There is recent precedent for the movement of a monument for historical recontextualization. The Lake County Historical Museum will accept a monument that had previously been one of Florida’s contributions to the statutory at the U.S. Capitol.

Developers pad Duval County property appraiser Jerry Holland’s re-election war chest

June extended a familiar narrative in Duval County property appraiser Jerry Holland‘s re-election bid, as the Republican incumbent again raised a five-figure sum against an undercapitalized Democratic challenger.

Holland raised $12,750 off of 26 contributions, many of which are from politically connected Jacksonville residents with an interest in maintaining continuity in office.

Real estate investors and developers, including the Vestcor Company, ponied up, comprising half the contributor list. So too did Gate Petroleum, the family business of former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton.

Politicians also cut checks, including Jacksonville City Councilman-elect Randy White and state House candidate Wyman Duggan, a lobbyist by trade.

Holland has what appears to be an insurmountable cash advantage. In three months as an active candidate, he has raised over $123,000, and retains all of it on hand.

Holland’s Democratic opponent, Kurt Kraft, has yet to report June numbers. However, he finished May with under $300 on hand, with the bulk of that money self-financed.

Jacksonville Bold for 7.6.18 — Fireworks or fizzle?

After a brief sabbatical, Bold is back.

The campaign season — local state House and Senate races and special elections, and statewide battles — is in full swing.

Competitive races abound up and down the ballot, along with more than a few cakewalks.

Since we took our break, we’ve also seen a new Jacksonville City Council president.

Jacksonville celebrates the return of Bold.

Aaron Bowman, an ally of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, is expected to presage an era of good feeling.

Will this happen? The mayor’s office hopes so.

With Jacksonville’s municipal elections running through May of next year, the local political season is a different matter than just the August/November cycle we see in state and federal races.

Ahead of us: close to a year of campaign finance watching, ad analysis, guessing and second-guessing, tips that do (and sometimes don’t) pan out.

People often say that FloridaPolitics.com covers the miscellany of the political scene, which otherwise would be ignored.

They’re right.

And for those of you who miss the content during the week, we try to bring together the best of the best (even in a slow week such as this) to you in Jacksonville Bold.

Great to be back!

LGBT group backs Lawson over Brown

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown faced questions about his commitment to LGBT rights during his four-year term, and those questions have continued to dog him as he mounts a primary challenge to Congressman Al Lawson.

The latest example: the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus choosing to endorse Florida’s 5th Congressional District incumbent, a first-term legislator from Tallahassee.

No surprise: Al Lawson gets backing from a prominent LGBTA group.

“Congressman Lawson has always been on the right side of the issues for the LGBT community,” said Terry Fleming, president of the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.

“We are proud he’s our representative in Washington who will stand up for equal rights for all, and that’s why the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus is pleased to endorse Congressman Al Lawson for re-election,” Fleming added.

Lawson was “humbled by this endorsement from the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.”

“Throughout my career,” Lawson added, “I have believed in true equality for all and fought to ensure no person is ever discriminated against due to his or her age, race, sex, religion or sexual orientation. We have made great strides in our nation, but there is still so much more we can do. I will continue to work to drive that path forward.”

Bean in cash cakewalk thus far

In Northeast Florida’s Senate District 4, incumbent Sen. Aaron Bean continued to hold a commanding lead over three opponents as of June 22, the most recent reportage date for state candidates.

The first three weeks of June, however, saw slow fundraising for Bean, who raised nothing for his political committee (Florida Conservative Alliance) and $4,500 in hard money, including maximum $1,000 contributions from Friends of Dana Young and GrayRobinson.

Boon times for Aaron Bean, as challengers struggle for cash.

Between the two accounts, Bean has roughly $160,000 on hand.

Bean will face a primary challenge, via Carlos Slay, a candidate widely seen as being backed by Bean’s political rival, former Rep. Janet Adkins.

Slay has not raised any money, and paid his filing fee via a personal loan.

The winner of the Bean/Slay clash will face two general election opponents, Democrat Billie Bussard and Libertarian Joanna Tavares.

Bussard has $4,500 on hand, having raised money between June 5 and June 22.

Tavares has less than $40 on hand after paying her filing fee.

What Bean is up to

The Fernandina Beach Republican will speak to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Jacksonville and will provide a postmortem of the 2018 Legislative Session Thursday, July 12, 9:30 a.m., Maggiano’s, 10367 Midtown Pkwy., Jacksonville.

Later that day, Bean will be honored with an award from the First Coast Apartment Association in appreciation for being a friend to their industry, 7:00 p.m., Sheraton Jacksonville Hotel, 10605 Deerwood Park Blvd, Jacksonville.

Yarborough dominates in HD 12 cash dash

State Rep. Clay Yarborough, a Jacksonville Republican in his first term, maintained his money lead over Democratic challenger Tim Yost through the first three weeks in June.

Clay Yarborough continues to hold a strong lead over Tim Yost.

Neither candidate has a primary challenge in House District 12, a Southside Jacksonville district that encompasses the Arlington area, which means this is a race to November.

Yarborough brought in $6,700 off ten contributions in the period, with Waste Management and the Southeast Florida Chamber of Commerce pacing the political veteran’s haul.

The Republican spent nearly as much as he took in during the reporting period, with $5,755 heading out the door, mostly to consultants and for a qualifying fee.

Yost had his best reporting period of fundraising since filing last summer, bringing in $2,521 ($1,781 of it from the candidate himself, to cover his filing fee).

Yost has almost $4,300 on hand, but Yarborough holds serve, with just under $107,000 in cash available.

Duggan closes in on Polson in HD 15 money battle

Democrat Tracye Polson will carry the party’s flag against one of three Republicans in a November race for exiting state Rep. Jay Fant‘s Westside Jacksonville seat.

GOP voters will pick Tracye Polson’s opponent. Donors are leaning toward Wyman Duggan thus far.

The bookkeeping through the first three weeks of June reveals a tightening financial picture between Polson, a well-funded first-time candidate, and Wyman Duggan, a Jacksonville lobbyist.

Polson brought in $3,647 to her campaign account, which now has roughly $115,000 on hand; her political committee added another $800, pushing that tally to $14,000 on hand.

Polson still leads the money race, but on the strength of his best reporting period since October 2017, Duggan is closing in.

Duggan brought in $13,800 to his campaign account in June (pushing the total near $121,000 on hand), driven by establishment support from J.B. CoxwellW.W. Gay, and CSX Transportation.

Running behind Duggan and Polson: the two other Republicans in the race.

Yacht broker Mark Zeigler brought in $5,325, pushing the first-time candidate over $33,000 on hand.

And Joseph Hogan, whose $1,500 in the first three weeks of June pushed his total over $8,000, may be trailing in fundraising. Nonetheless, he had the biggest name contributor of the four HD 15 hopefuls this cycle: former House Speaker Allan Bense.

Fischer stays strong against Dem challenge

In the first three weeks of June, state Rep. Jason Fischer, the incumbent Republican in Mandarin (Jacksonville) House District 16, lengthened his money lead against Democratic challenger Ken Organes.

Jason Fischer continues his fundraising lead.

Neither candidate faces a primary opponent, making the race in 16 a sprint toward November.

Fischer’s political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville, brought in $21,000; his campaign account received another $8,500.

School choice money, via Step Up for Students founder John Kirtley, comprised $10,000 of the committee’s haul; Florida Power and Light, a company with lobbyists in Jacksonville’s City Hall during the lapsed debate over potential privatization of the city’s utility, ponied up $5,000.

The $8,500 of new money in Fischer’s campaign account came from 10 contributors, including long-term care apothecary Senior Care Pharmacy, the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, and the Southeast Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Fischer’s committee had at the time of filing $80,000 on hand; his campaign account had another $93,000.

Organes, meanwhile, raised $6,484, pushing his campaign account over $20,000 on hand.

Among Organes’ backers: former CSX CEO Michael Ward, notable as Organes retired from the Jacksonville railroad, former State Attorney candidate Jay Plotkin, and the local Sheet Metal Workers.

What Nelson is reading

Melissa Nelson, the State Attorney for the 4th Circuit Court, couldn’t have commissioned a stronger endorsement of her job performance thus far than this paean to “smart justice” in the Florida Times-Union.

Melissa Nelson gets her most robust endorsement yet. (Image via Folio Weekly)

“Among the brightest spots in Nelson’s vision is expanding diversion and civil citation programs, which seek to steer individuals away out of the criminal justice system. Diversion programs use alternatives to the usual criminal court system to process certain low-level, nonviolent offenders. Rather than rely on criminal sanctions that often do little more than force offenders to languish in a jail cell, diversion programs require these individuals to undergo substance abuse, mental health or other treatment,” the editorial from the right-leaning R Street Institute reads.

“By embracing “smart on crime” justice, Northeast Florida finds itself in good company. Conservative-led jurisdictions across the country are beginning to experiment with new ideas and reap prodigious returns on the back of evidence-based reforms,” the piece continues.

Read more here.

Ray retains tax collector cash lead

As of June 22, former State Rep. Lake Ray leads his three opponents in fundraising for the Duval County Tax Collector election to be held this August.

The election, which will see the top two candidates move to the November ballot if no one gets a majority of votes, was necessitated by former tax collector Michael Corrigan moving on to a role with Visit Jacksonville.

Ray, a Republican, has raised $128,660, with $17,350 hauled in between June 1 and June 20. He has over $119,000 on hand.

Doyle Carter, languishing third in the money race.

Ray’s closest competitor is also a Republican, former property appraiser, and city councilman Jim Overton, who has raised $90,000 total, with almost $79,000 on hand.

During the most recent three-week reporting period, Overton brought in $15,650.

Running third in the money race: current Jacksonville City Councilman Doyle Carter.

Carter, also a Republican, had the best three-week period of all the candidates. His $22,050 haul included a noteworthy donation, via the “Jacksonville Conservative Action Fund” committee, seeded solely by the Republican Party of Florida.

Carter has over $53,000 on hand.

Running in fourth place: the sole Democrat in the race, former State Rep. Mia Jones.

Jones raised $9,740 in the three-week reporting period and has just over $12,000 total.

Task force hits Jacksonville government for transparency failings

In its final report, the Jacksonville City Council Task Force on Open Government offered an indictment of Curry’s administration and the Jacksonville City Council on transparency issues.

The media has long wondered why Lenny Curry’s emails lack real discussions of city issues.

The panel, co-chaired by trial lawyer Hank Coxe and former Jessie Ball DuPont Center head Sherry Magill, says city government makes it “difficult for the public to understand governmental processes and decisions.”

Mayoral staff review of public records requests and disallowing journalists to interview department heads: two of the black marks identified.

The City Council also gets dinged for not posting text messages and emails to a public portal. Indeed, the only Council communications available without a public record request are emails to the whole Council. And text messages, for anyone in city government, are not made available without said PRR.

Critics of the city website say it’s hard to navigate, and lacking attention to SEO or navigation; the city budget for being hard to understand; public notice processes are “archaic.”

Whether legislation will emerge from this or not is a different matter.

The task force was a priority of former Council President Brosche, and it is by no means certain that her Council colleagues share her interest in increasing transparency in the ways the task force recommends.

Jacksonville leads in emerging economic centers

Some good news for once, and kudos to the Jax Daily Record for providing it.

Per a recent study from the Urban Land Institute, Jacksonville is among a leader in “emerging economic centers.”

Photo of St. Johns Town Center, via Visit Jacksonville.

Jacksonville, with 11.9 percent of urban residents living in emerging economic centers, is seeing “new urban cores” emerge.

The study spotlighted Riverside and the Town Center.

What is missing: “mixed-use districts,” with high-density housing and upscale retail.

Perhaps the District will solve that problem once it is built on the Southbank.

Car trouble

Suspended Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown, at this point, is better known for her legal woes than anything she’s done legislatively.

Another legal action against the compromised councilor.

38-count federal indictment, spotlighting a scheme to defraud with another suspended councilman (Reggie Brown), is the reason.

However, the feds aren’t the only ones suing Katrina Brown. Also coming after her as of this week: Wells Fargo, which loaned her money using a 2000 Ford Explorer as collateral, is now suing her for a nonperforming loan.

This is Katrina Brown’s second lawsuit regarding lapsed car payments since she has been on Council: the first one involved a 2006 Porsche Cayenne SUV.

In this case, Wells Fargo subsidiary OneMain loaned Councilwoman Brown $8,300 at 25 percent interest using a 16-year-old truck as collateral on Nov. 2016, just weeks before the FBI, the IRS, HUD, the Small Business Administration and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office raided her family’s BBQ sauce plant.

Councilwoman Brown stopped making payments on the loan last summer, per the lawsuit.

This loan’s timing tracks with two of the counts against Katrina Brown in the federal indictment, which asserts that she was trying to secure a loan for $60,000 for “working capital” for her KJB Specialties from a company called LendCore through Nov. 2016, and $50-$55,000 from Credibly and Webbank in the same time frame. Part of the scheme to defraud, per the indictment, included materially altering bank statements.

Katrina and Reggie Brown, at this writing, are expected to see their federal trials begin Sep. 4.

Pretty vacant

On June 1, Gov. Rick Scott suspended two Democratic Jacksonville City Council members who face 38 federal counts in a scheme to defraud local and federal taxpayers.

While Scott has not yet picked replacements for Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, former Council President Anna Brosche solved the issue for their constituents weeks ago.

That solution: Councilman Sam Newby and Brosche will fill in for the suspended duo until replacements are appointed.

“Me stepping in to help handle things in District 10 is a very temporary situation,” Brosche said to one of many impassioned speakers at a June public notice meeting.

And indeed, it was temporary, as now current Council President Aaron Bowman exercised his authority and relieved the two at-large Republicans of those duties this week.

“That was not a legal assignment,” Bowman said. “They have five at-large representatives to represent them.”

Brosche appointed herself and Newby to the roles, she said Tuesday, because she believed the need for a point person to address concerns specific to those districts.

The move “wasn’t about legal authority,” she added; rather, it was about ensuring the constituents had representation.

Brosche also noted that, in her understanding, similar moves in the past filled in the gap for suspended councilors.

School super speaks out

WJCT interviewed Dr. Diana Greene, the new superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, this week.

(Image via WJCT)

She’s not quite sure what needs changing first.

“I don’t think what I know right now is enough information to make that determination. What are the areas that need the most improvement? But there are general areas it would matter what district I’m in. Academics is always going to be something that we can always improve. Ensuring safety and security of our students, making sure that our employees are safe in their locations at work,” Greene said. “Those are things that are happening not only in Duval but across the country, and we want to continue to focus on those same issues so that our students, when they come to school, they know that they’re in a safe environment, when our teachers come to work, they’re in a safe environment and that the No. 1 priority is doing what’s best for students to ensure their success.”

Greene also seemed open to a millage hike via referendum:

“I think any passing of a referendum requires a coalition of involved and engaged citizens in the process and stepping in July 2, being my first official day, I need to again get to know people, introduce myself to the community … It does take time. It takes time to understand what are the issues? And 1) will a referendum help solve those issues? My first role is to No. 1 get to know everyone, but No. 2, identify what are our issues?”

The board appointed Greene, who started this week.

Save the date

St. Johns Chamber of Commerce is holding a Candidate Meet-and-Greet, Monday, July 16, at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, 1050 A1A North. The nonpartisan event – from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. – will feature a straw poll conducted by the St. Johns Supervisor of Elections. It’s free and open to the public.

JTA bond rating stays strong

Bond rating agency S&P is upholding the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) ‘AA’ rating, giving stability for the regional transit agency’s local option gas tax (LOGT) revenue bonds, series 2015.

Series 2015 bonds represent JTA’s first direct debt issuance; money helps fund roadway and mobility improvements. This rating reflects an assessment of the prospects of LOGT revenues relative to the required JTA debt service payments, along with future capital needs.

“This bond rating assessment strengthens the financial position of the Authority,” said JTA Board Chair Isaiah Rumlin. “The rating allows the Authority to continue to improve safety, reduce congestion on major roadways, provide mobility options and enhance the quality of life for the community.”

JTA works with the City of Jacksonville to identify specific roadway, transit and mobility projects. Construction is underway for roadway development as well as enhancements for bicycle, pedestrian, transit and ADA accessibility. Since its inception in 2015, the program is installed 7.5 miles of sidewalk.

“The 2015 bond issuance has enabled the JTA to aggressively implement the JTAMobilityWorks initiative,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel Ford. “I want to thank our board of directors for their governance and commitment to effective financial management.”

JAA head to retire

Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) Chief Executive Officer Steve Grossman is retiring at the end of 2018. Named CEO in September 2009, Grossman oversees the operation, maintenance, development and marketing of authority assets such as Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), Cecil Airport/Spaceport, Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport (JAXEX) and Herlong Recreational Airport. He also serves as the primary JAA representative to the community.

Retiring JAA CEO Steve Grossman. (Image via News4Jax)

Under Grossman’s leadership, JAA achieved annual operating profit margins of at least 30 percent.

JAA Chair Giselle Carson said in a statement: “Under Steve’s leadership, JAX saw a recovery in passenger traffic after the Great Recession, celebrated its 50th anniversary, launched our Aviation Hall of Fame, developed Cecil Airport bringing over a thousand new jobs to the area and watched Cecil Spaceport bring in new technology that will take us into the future.”

Grossman has been a member of the Airports Council International World Governing Board and is a past chair of Airports Council International-North America. He currently serves on the City of Jacksonville Tourist Development Council, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce board of trustees, and the University of North Florida Transportation and Logistics Advisory Council.

Flagler Hospital breaks ground on Murabella Health Village

Nearly 100 people attended the groundbreaking of the Flagler Health Village at Murabella.

When completed by the summer of 2019, the new facility will include 20,000 square feet dedicated to urgent care, advanced imaging, laboratory services, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, primary care and specialty care. Additionally, plans for the site include a 25,000 square foot healthy lifestyle center with fitness, prevention and education program offerings for all ages.

Flagler Hospital is expanding with a new satellite facility.

“As we broaden our reach into new markets, we do so with great enthusiasm. It is important for us to heal people when they are sick and also to support a healthier, more vibrant community,” Flagler Hospital President and CEO Jason Barret said in a news release.

Special guests at the event included Kalilah Jamall, staff assistant in the office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who brought along special message from Nelson; State Sen.Travis Hutson; Jackie Smith, aide to Congressman John Rutherford; City of St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver; City of St. Augustine Vice Mayor Todd Neville and St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Operations, Greg Voss.

Jax neurosurgeons bring lifesaving work to Philippines

In June, Jacksonville pediatric neurosurgeon Philipp Aldana joined other health care professionals on a volunteer educational medical mission to his native Philippines. They make the 9,000 trip every two years to teach new neurosurgical techniques to Filipino doctors and consult on neurological cases.

As the Florida Times-Union reports, the trip is a reminder of the vast difference between health care services available in the Philippines and the United States.

Aldana, who is based at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and UF Health Jacksonville, along with his wife, Carmina Montesa Aldana, founded the Jacksonville-based Neurosurgery Outreach Foundation to help close that health care gap.

A group of Jacksonville surgeons volunteer in the Philippines. (Image via Jacksonville Business Journal)

This trip, the Aldana’s were joined by a group of volunteers that included Ricardo Hanel, an endovascular neurosurgeon with Baptist Health and Lyerly Neurosurgery; H. Gordon Deen Jr., a neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic; and Karen Lidsky, another pediatric critical care physician with UF Health Jacksonville and Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

During their trip, the gave lectures to 50 Filipino health care providers, including 20 neurosurgeons, as well as $100,000 worth of donated surgical clips to treat aneurysms, a treatment unfamiliar in the Philippines. Also, more supplies and $15,000 for an indigent patient fund.

Working with Filipino colleagues, the group provided free surgical care to four children and four adults who had brain and spinal cord tumors, brain aneurysms, neck instability and hydrocephalus.

“It’s always something new,” Aldana told the Times-Union. “We never really know what cases we’ll encounter until a week or two before. … There is no shortage of cases.”

First Coast YMCA becomes Florida’s first Armed Services affiliate

The First Coast YMCA, partnering with the Armed Services YMCA, became the first affiliate in Florida – and one of 20 in the nation – in its mission to support service members and families in the Jacksonville military community.

First Coast YMCA. (Image via Jacksonville Business Journal)

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, First Coast YMCA has 12 branch locations across the five-county region, giving it a “unique position to serve as a central support system for Jacksonville’s military community.”

As an affiliate, First Coast YMCA can now provide armed service members and their families affordable access to wellness solutions, special rates for membership and summer camps for all military ranks, as well as free programs in Healthy Living Centers. Special rates are also available for all Honorably Discharged Service Veterans.

Cecil Spaceport tests prototype

Per the Jacksonville Business Journal: Atlanta-based Generation Orbit Launch Services Inc. tested a prototype liquid rocket engine at Cecil Spaceport.

By late 2019, the GOLauncher1 hypersonic flight test booster is expected to launch satellites from horizontal aircraft.

One of a half-dozen such facilities in the U.S., Cecil Spaceport is the only spaceport approved for horizontal launches on the East Coast.

Cecil Spaceport tests the GOLauncher1 hypersonic flight test booster. (Image via Generation Orbit)

The GO1 is “an affordable and flexible hypersonic testbed” for technology experiments in conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 8, according to a news release.

According to the Journal, GO1’s combustion engine, powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene, performed as expected during tests, the first of their kind to be conducted at Cecil. The engine test demonstrated a capability of cruising at Mach 6 at heights between 80,000 and 90,000 feet, a crucial point for hypersonic flight testing.

Jaguars fans will see more teal in 2018

If Jaguars fans like seeing their team sporting a different look from time to time, they will have the opportunity this year. The NFL has reportedly told all 32 teams they may wear alternate or throwback uniforms three times in 2018 as opposed to two last year.

Jacksonville changed their alternate uniform during the offseason, responding to those fans who have expressed their satisfaction with the teal look. Team management is equally pleased.

“True to our current identity and what we want to represent for years to come, our new uniforms are no-nonsense, all business and unmistakably Jaguars,” said owner Shad Khan. “Tradition has returned to Jacksonville.”

Teal and black are in this season.

At least one publication agrees with the fans. The Jaguars teal is ranked 11th best among those polled in a national ranking and easily the best among AFC South teams (Tennessee is next best at 21).

The question arises as to which games the Jags should wear the new look. A look back to 2017 shows they brought out the best in the Jaguars and worst in their opponents.

On November 5, they hounded the Cincinnati Bengals 23-7, with Jalen Ramsey nagging Bengals’ Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green into an ejection. On December 10, Seattle Seahawks’ defensive end Quinton Jefferson was ejected, then tried to go into the stands after a fan after Jacksonville’s 30-24 victory.

This publication suggests the best choices would be the home opener on September 16 vs. the Patriots, the October 28 game in London against Super Bowl champion Philadelphia, and the November 18 Sunday night home game against the Steelers. The pro football world will be focusing on all three games.

The best case against the home opener is a desire to wear white in the September late afternoon heat and force the Patriots to wear dark blue. In that case, the October 14 road game at Dallas or the December 16 home finale with Washington could be worthy substitutes.

Andrew Gillum, backed by billionaires, delivers populist sermon in Jacksonville

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is fond of reminding audiences that he’s the only “non-millionaire” in the Florida gubernatorial race.

The Democrat did just that in Jacksonville Thursday evening at a town hall event held at a Northside church, in cadences appropriate for the venue.

Despite being of modest means personally, Gillum has the help of two prominent billionaires, with one of them, George Soros, again in late June ponying up $250,000 to Gillum’s Forward Florida political committee. In total, the Soros family has pumped $750,000 into Gillum’s quest for the Governor’s Mansion.

The other big name on the billionaire left, Tom Steyer, committed $1 million via his NextGen super PAC. Half of that total was directly linked to Steyer.

And those numbers may not be the ceiling for those commitments.

What they are, Gillum told Florida Politics, is opportunity: “to let voters, particularly those who are going to be an important part of our base, know that we are a choice on the ballot.”

“What most people are counting on is that we won’t be able to communicate so that voters in this state don’t know that I’m a choice on the ballot. We’re convinced that we don’t have to be all over television. We don’t have to be the campaign that raises the most money even,” Gillum added.

Digital, traditional mail, and personal voter contact (as Gillum said, “showing up on their doorsteps”) are among the ways to maximize resources.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be an air war,” Gillum said, with his appeal to a “built-in constituency” serving as a force multiplier.

Gillum acknowledged the backing from Steyer in the town hall, and his mention of the million-dollar donation scored a round of applause, the first of many throughout the evening.

But opponents — both in the other party and in the primary field — have fired off with criticism.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, in his speeches to GOP audiences, positions his campaign as a bulwark against the influence of the two billionaires. And Putnam’s rhetoric is echoed on the Democratic side by Jeff Greene, a billionaire in his own right who entered the race in recent weeks.

“If you want to have Florida managed by George Soros and whatever he wants, regardless of whether the governor likes it, and Tom Steyer, then you can go with Andrew Gillum,” Greene said last weekend.

Gillum, as one would expect, dismisses these critiques.

“I have known Mr. Soros for about fifteen years,” Gillum said, “and he has contributed to work I’ve supported at the People for the American Way Foundation and the youth leadership work I’ve done around the country. He has never called up and asked me for a single thing.”

“It’s easy for someone like Jeff Greene to want to dismiss someone getting support from someone else. He’s the same candidate who made his fortune by shorting the market. Now, he did well, but a lot of people did not do well during that terrible housing downturn,” Gillum added.

“I don’t have the luxury of his three-plus-billion-dollar fortune to try to buy a race,” Gillum continued, “but I don’t believe that’s what’s going to win.”

Rather, Gillum believes his appeal rests in “the kind of authentic, real energy that’s showing up on the ground from everyday people.”

Though by the standards of the gubernatorial field, one where Democrats Philip Levine and Greene have a so-far bottomless capacity to self-finance, and where Republican Adam Putnam cleared $30 million raised some weeks back, $1.75 million is real money — especially for a campaign like Gillum’s, uniquely capable of galvanizing the grassroots and (at least theoretically) expanding the universe of primary voters.

Seventeen months ago, Gillum described an “eighteen-month view of engagement” approach to the campaign, one that involved reaching out to voters who wouldn’t turn out otherwise.

Gillum noted the task as the election approaches is “narrowing our focus on the parts of the state that will allow us the best yield for our time.”

Time will tell if that prevails.

Most polls have shown Levine and Gwen Graham ahead of Gillum, Chris King, and Greene.

And in the Jacksonville market, the biggest names to endorse Gillum have been former state Sen. Tony Hill and former state Rep. Mia Jones, with other Democrats, such as Jacksonville City Councilmen Garrett Dennis and Tommy Hazouri, backing Graham.

However, the Gillum approach seems predicated on the kind of variables that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld referred to as “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns.”

Are the pollsters and pols wrong?

That’s Gillum’s bet. And that of the billionaires bankrolling his populist bid.

Gillum is delivering a message that Democratic voters yearn for, regarding such issues as criminal justice and rehabilitation (including the regressive “money bail” system), veteran homelessness, jobs with a living wage (including teaching), Medicaid expansion and indigent health care, the judiciary and others.

And he is delivering that message with a messianic verve and commitment, as well as a definite generational appeal to voters under the age of 40, that eludes many in the field.

Gillum kept his remarks positive in the town hall, though he did note a disagreement with Graham on “the issues.”

“She voted against President [Barack] Obama 52 percent of the time … to ban Syrian refugee immigration … in favor of the Keystone Pipeline,” Gillum said, noting that while “it isn’t personal,” he doesn’t trust Graham “when [our] back is against the wall.”

As the candidate told us Thursday, it’s a five-way race for the nomination. And 20 percent plus one vote, in theory, can win it.

“My conversation and my comments are informed,” Gillum said, “by the people I’ve come in contact with on the trail.”

“We’ve been written off more times than I’ve got fingers for. I believe we come back after every one of them. We’re beginning to peak,” Gillum said, “right at the time that we need it.”

Al Lawson rolls out four more re-election endorsements, including two Jacksonville locals

Congressman Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat representing Florida’s 5th Congressional District, scored on Thursday four key endorsements ahead of his August primary clash with former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

Two of them were local to Jacksonville: the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 360 and the Jacksonville Brotherhood of Firefighters, both meaningful given that each group would have experienced Brown’s leadership for four years.

These Jacksonville locals join the local Fraternal Order of Police and Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters in backing the incumbent.

As well, the Sierra Club and the American Postal Workers Union backed Lawson over Brown.

“I am grateful to have the support of such an array of community organizations who work to ensure that our families are safe, our environment is protected and our cities run smoothly,” Lawson said. “They do so much for us; I am proud to have the opportunity to work on their behalf in Congress.”

Tea Party tempest for Lenny Curry as Jacksonville Landing spat intensifies

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been playing hardball with Toney Sleiman, a major GOP donor, regarding his company’s management of the Jacksonville Landing.

Having already moved to evict Sleiman’s group from the Landing, the city now wants Sleiman’s group to seek permits for special events held at the Landing (breaking a 30-year tradition that Landing events have not required such greenlighting).

The Eye on Jacksonville blog, helmed by former Tea Party leader Billie Tucker (an ally of Sleiman) waded into the controversy this week, slamming Curry as “the worst person of the week,” because he has meandered far away from the base.

Tucker calls the permit move a “squeeze play,” a “bully tactic,” and potentially a “page out of the Corrupt Politicians Playbook.”

Tucker does not substantiate descriptions of said corruption. She does note that she and Curry participated in Tea Party events, some drawing 5,000 people, at the Landing, and that they benefited from the Landing’s willingness to host said events free of charge.

“The Landing owners were happy to have us, AND the Landing owners are ALWAYS happy to assist other nonprofits and special events for FREE most of the time. They open their doors to those who can’t afford the high dollar rental venues owned by the city (taxpayers, that is),” Tucker observes. “They put on free concerts for people who can’t afford to go to the high priced taxpayer-funded venues, and the Landing owners have hosted more than 600 events every year.”

From there, Tucker asserts a possible conspiracy between the media and the Curry administration, which “would like you to think The Landing owners are greedy and don’t want to fix the Landing. That’s not the case at all.”

“And very soon in a courtroom just down the street from the Landing, we pray justice will prevail, and the City will be exposed for hindering the Landing’s potential since the 80s when the Rouse company developed it,” he adds. “The big squeeze has been going on since that time and under this administration — the big squeeze is on steroids.”

Tucker’s blog post and advocacy for the Sleiman position is no surprise. However, it is yet another data point in the developing narrative that there may be restiveness on the right over Curry’s re-election bid.

Curry faces an underfunded Republican challenger, former Atlantic Beach city commissioner Jimmy Hill, in the 2019 first election.

Hill contends that he is running to rectify the mistake of supporting Curry in 2015.

As well, at certain socially conservative GOP forums (most recently, the Westside Republican Club), mentions of Curry’s name have not been met with rapturous applause.

Even an endorsed candidate at that forum, Wyman Duggan, did not mention Curry supporting him in his HD 15 race, one where Duggan has contracted Curry’s chief political operative to run his campaign.

Whether any of this drama will complicate Curry’s well-funded re-election campaign remians to be seen.

As of the end of May (the last report for 2019 municipal election campaigns), Curry raised over $2 million, with $1.6 million on hand.

Between them, Curry’s four filed opponents have raised $860.

That said, if Sleiman wants to take his case against the administration from blogs and court filings to the voters, it is entirely conceivable that the race could get more interesting, at least marginally.

Wyman Duggan gets the Marion Hammer seal of approval

Jacksonville attorney Wyman Duggan, the best funded of the three Republicans looking to succeed Rep. Jay Fant in HD 15, snagged the endorsement of the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund and the United Sportsmen of Florida Thursday.

Duggan, deemed “pro-gun” by the USF and given an “A” rating by the NRA-PVF, was lauded by USF executive director Marion Hammer for his “strong support of Second Amendment, self-defense, and anti-crime issues.”

Duggan, the most heavily endorsed Republican in the race, brought in $13,800 to his campaign account in June (pushing the total near $121,000 on hand), driven by establishment support from J.B. CoxwellW.W. Gay, and CSX Transportation.

Running behind Duggan: the two other Republicans in the race.

Yacht broker Mark Zeigler brought in $5,325, pushing the first-time candidate over $33,000 on hand. And Joseph Hogan, whose $1,500 in the first three weeks of June pushed his total over $8,000,

The winner of this primary will face Democrat Tracye Polson, who is still, at least for now, the cash-on-hand leader, with roughly $129,000 on hand through June 22.

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