The slogan d’jour: One City, One Jacksonville. But the city’s boards and commissions are largely white and male. And it will take time and work to change that imbalance.
Of 332 people currently serving, 65 percent are male — a number not substantially different between City Council appointees (64 percent male) and appointees from other parties, such as the Mayor (66 percent).
70 percent of all appointees: Caucasian. The percentage of Council appointees is even higher: 80 percent, per the most recent Boards and Commissions diversity report.
This ratio holds true, more or less, no matter who is in office.
And some would contend that needs to change.
On Wednesday morning, Council President Anna Brosche convened a public notice meeting “to increase awareness of opportunities to serve in hopes of broadening the pool of candidates that apply.”
Members of boards and commissions attended, along with former Council President Lori Boyer, and representatives from the Mayor’s Office.
Brosche’s goal with the meeting: to broaden the exposure of openings and make the “pool of applicants for consideration larger than one.”
Boards and commissions have codified requirements, including residency and experience requirements, which can make filling these positions even more challenging.
Councilwoman Boyer noted some techniques she used to get recommendations, including reaching out to industry groups.
Feedback was sparse, and recommendations lacked diversity components as well as elemental competence in many cases, Boyer said.
“It’s both subject-matter expertise trade organizations that need to engage, and groups in the community [including] people of various ethnic backgrounds and trying to get women involved,” Boyer said.
Boyer noted the difficulty of filling certain diversity components required her to “cold-call them,” which she described as a “ridiculous” amount of time.
“A challenge is how to reach the right group,” Boyer said, especially relative to specialist positions like architects and arborists.
“When you get so constrained, it’s like you have to have a purple person living in these four blocks, it’s hard to find them,” Boyer said.
One meeting attendee noted that she promoted a board opening on her Facebook page to women, and they were surprised that such things were open to the public.
“There’s just a barrier to access,” she said.
There are dozens of open positions on boards and commissions, with elapsed terms presenting even more.
Brosche’s position on boards and commissions is an augury of some strong moves toward social justice from Brosche and from council leadership.
Monday saw Brosche take control of the news cycle when she declared that Jacksonville needs to find an endgame for its increasingly divisive Confederate monuments.
Brosche intends to “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.”
In the wake of that proposal, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reports “chatter” from white-pride/domestic terrorist types, and there is nothing approaching consensus in City Hall regarding the monument movement.
More broadly, the Jacksonville City Council likewise is prioritizing diversity in this month’s budget hearings, with departmental hiring practices being asked about by Finance Committee members.
Those who work at Jacksonville City Hall have received a political education of late, demonstrated by a recent City Council bill on funding after-school programs.
With apologies to Ric Flair, but his famous catchphrase “now we go to school” applies here … and not just because this bill was education-related.
Finance Chair Garrett Dennis wanted to tap into general fund reserves for one-time money to fund after-school program expansion — a position at odds with that of Mayor Lenny Curry, on yet another issue.
In a statement, Curry said that would not be “prudent” and would send the wrong message to ratings agencies, and if the bill passed with that condition, “the mayor would evaluate it when it lands on his desk.”
Instead, here’s what happened. The Finance Chair’s amendments got turfed, with the old guard of the Council — Bill Gulliford, John Crescimbeni and others — again controlling the discourse at the expense of Dennis and Council President Anna Brosche.
As with previous conflicts between Dennis and Curry (see: swimming lessons money), the battle took a familiar track. Dennis got out in front of consensus on an issue, and Team Curry picked off potential supporters in quiet conversations after that.
With budget discussions beginning this week in Dennis’ committee, we are reminded of another famous Flair phrase.
“To be the man,” the Nature Boy often said when defending his world title, “you’ve got to beat the man.”
Does Dennis have the juice? We’ll watch that this month, along with all kinds of other excitement in state and federal politics, some of which you will see below.
John Rutherford heads to Israel
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford has settled in quickly to his role in Congress and this recess week found the Jacksonville Republican burnishing his foreign policy chops with a trip to the Middle East.
Per a news release from Rutherford’s office, the congressman left for Israel Monday “as part of a delegation of Members of Congress to meet with various leaders in the region including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas.”
The delegation discussed “US relations in the region including economic, military and security cooperation.”
Rutherford met “with Nafatali Bennet, the Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs, IDF Soldiers, as well as Israeli military leaders, professors and business leaders. The group will also tour Israeli military bases, as well as visit historic and holy sites.”
Guilt is a ‘myth,’ says Corrine Brown lawyer
Rep. Brown was in court this week fighting guilty convictions on 18 counts, contending that she should a] get a new trial and/or b] be acquitted.
The arguments had been rehearsed in the written motions and during the trial, as the prosecution noted.
“The defense is not saying anything different today than it did [during] the proceedings,” one of the prosecutors asserted, hammering in on repeated instances of “fraudulent omissions” regarding pitches to donors, statements on tax returns, and so on — with Brown’s word being the only evidence to the contrary.
Evidentiary points, such as Brown holding blank checks from One Door, loomed large as evidence of Brown’s involvement.
“She had hijacked the charity, had her chief of staff take control of the finances, and was bleeding it dry,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Coolican said.
Rev. Jesse Jackson was there in support — yet another nostalgia act on this never-ending road show that is the end of Corrine Brown’s political career.
Quiet July for Paul Renner committees
July was the first month of fundraising for future Florida House Speaker Renner‘s political committees since he won the honor in late June.
Some observers may have anticipated an avalanche of activity, but in reality, the committees had modest contributions and spends.
“Florida Foundation for Liberty,” Renner’s primary committee, brought in just $25,500 in July (spending $20,383 of that), pushing the committee just over $240,000 on hand.
Donations came in from political committees, including the Realtors, Surgi-PAC, and the Florida Credit Union’s political action committee.
The biggest donation: $10,000 from MHK of Volusia County.
Of the over $20,000 spent, $4,000 went to Ballard Consulting, $2,685 went to Renner’s campaign account for reimbursements, $10,000 went to another Renner committee, “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.”
Meanwhile, there were just two external donations, and both were in the Jacksonville metro area.
The committee gave $1,000 to Clay Yarborough‘s campaign, and $2,500 to “A Safe Jacksonville,” the political committee of Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.
The aforementioned “Conservatives for Principled Leadership,” meanwhile, has just under $18,000 on hand after a $12,500 July.
Beyond the $10,000 from Renner’s other committee, the other $2,500 came from the “Florida Prosperity Fund” committee.
Yarboroughcontinues strong fundraising
Rep.Yarborough, the Jacksonville Republican representing State House District 12, hauled in $7,500 in July fundraising.
Among the bigger names from the nine donors: Foley and Lardner and Florida Foundation for Liberty (the committee of future House Speaker Renner).
Yarborough has raised nearly $49,000 this cycle, and has just under $41,000 of that on hand, as he prepares for a general election challenge in the deep red district.
Yarborough is slated to face a general election opponent: Tim Yost, a local college instructor running as a Democrat.
Yost filed for this race in the middle of July and has raised $2,215, largely from small-dollar donors, with a few bearing the surname of Yost.
Bobby Payne draws competition in HD 19
GOP state Rep. Payne, whose district encompasses parts of Union, Clay, Bradford and Putnam counties, has drawn both primary and general election opposition in recent days.
Green Cove Springs Republican Boyce Royal filed July 31 to run against Payne in the GOP primary.
Royal is a real estate agent by trade.
The winner of that primary will go on to face a Libertarian, Ryan Russell Ramsey, in the general election.
Payne, a Palatka native, has just under $23,000 on hand after a $6,500 July comprised of donations from Jacksonville’s power elite — Peter Rummell, the Fiorentino Group, Jacksonville Kennel Club and so on.
Expect that war chest to grow.
Despite being a rookie legislator, Payne will be a tough out; he has a strong working relationship with Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings of the Clay Delegation, and with Gov. Rick Scott.
In the contested GOP primary in 2016, Payne won his native Putnam with 55 percent of the vote, but he held his own — and then some — elsewhere. He got 47 percent of the vote in Union, 31 percent in Clay, and 35 percent in Bradford.
Curry fundraising machine churns on
Jacksonville Mayor Curry hasn’t officially launched his re-election campaign, but the donor class is all in.
Already this month, Curry raised over $100K at an event at the JAX Chamber.
Chamber CEO Daniel Davis tweeted out an understatement: “looks like JAX Chamber wants to see Lenny Curry re-elected.”
Curry’s committee continues the momentum one would expect from a popular incumbent.
July saw Curry’s committee raise $52.5K, and disperse $19,647 — including $5,000 to “Seamless Florida,” the committee of St. Petersburg Republican mayoral candidate Rick Baker.
The big donor: Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who ponied up $25K.
There was no invoicing of the trip that Curry took on Khan’s private jet for an economic development trip last week to Baltimore, St. Louis, and Kansas City.
That trip explored, among other concepts, development ideas for future development of the area around Jacksonville’s football stadium and other athletic facilities.
Happy Consolidation anniversary
Jacksonville’s Consolidation (as in the city and the county became one) is 50 years old. And this week, the Florida Times-Union took a walk down memory lane, via an interesting piece from Matt Soergel that dug into the archives and looked at the debate at the time.
The Jacksonville Journal, which used to be the afternoon paper in Jacksonville, noted that “the people [won]” with “Floridians now know[ing] that the sleeping giant who sat at one of the most enviable spots in the state now means to shake off the slumber of years.”
Did that happen?
Depends on who you ask.
As we saw in July in Jacksonville’s City Council, a resolution in favor of a celebration of Consolidation didn’t muster unanimous support.
A movement for full Council sponsorship of the resolution was spiked by Councilman Reggie Brown, who spoke at length about infrastructural failings and broken promises.
Brown noted that JEA, for example, isn’t committed to sewer and water expansion in his district.
“Until we have a plan to say that if you live inside the Beltway, we will focus on installing sewer and water, there is no celebration,” Brown said.
Likewise, Councilwoman Katrina Brown would not sign on, citing “the same issues,” even as she lauded the Council and JEA for committing $30M over five years for septic tank phase out.
One ongoing initiative: a task force to deal with public health issues.
Employee health: another matter to be addressed. Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa suggested Mayor Curry may want to deal with that task force.
And changes in health care could be contemplated.
“The county hospital model is becoming a thing of the past in most cities,” Councilwoman Lori Boyer remarked.
The expansion of CPACs — Citizen Planning Advisory Committees — also was up for discussion.
“When we consolidated, we became a big bureaucratic entity,” Boyer said, with CPACs serving an important role to bring localism to the larger government.
And bringing the discussion back full circle, a discussion of allocating a fixed amount of the capital improvement program budget to the promises made before Consolidation happened.
“Part of the argument for Consolidation,” Boyer said, was standardizing city services.
“Much of [the work] hasn’t been done.”
JAXPORT dredge frustrates City Council
While JAXPORT and the state and federal governments are full steam ahead regarding dredging the St. Johns River to 47 feet, City Councilors wonder how much the city will be soaked for, per the Florida Times-Union.
“They’ve orchestrated it in a way that we’re not engaged until some point in the future,” Councilman Bill Gulliford said. “We don’t know what the actual number will be.”
“At this point, I’m probably in the category of one confused council member,” Councilman John Crescimbeni said. “My comfort level is not great, and it’s a very complicated issue because of all the different numbers and figures that are being bandied about by a variety of sources. I think I need to hire my own forensic accountant to try to reconcile everything down to two files — fact and fiction.”
“I am disappointed that they have chosen to phase this process in such a way that they’re not coming to the city for any approval prior to starting the project,” Councilwoman Boyer said. “That’s clearly the frustrating part.”
While some are on board, the reality is JAXPORT has more selling to do — and probably in noticed meetings.
Jax LGBT advocates laud HRO protections
With uncertainty now the watchword regarding federal protections for LGBT people, Jacksonville advocates are happy that the local Human Rights Ordinance protects them locally, reports the Florida Times-Union.
Jimmy Midyette, legislative director of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, described what the bill actually means in the new context.
“We had to make the point again and again and again that we’re not covered [and] we’re not doing a ‘feel-good’ bill to make people think we’re doing something,” Midyette said. “I think it just shows with so much uncertainty on the national level it’s more important than ever to have these local protections in place.”
Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel notes that no matter what happens on the federal level, the local protections are still actionable.
Since the HRO expansion became law in February, no claims have been filed that the law was broken.
St. Johns Republican Chair takes on transgender high schooler
Just across the county line from Jacksonville, the argument for HRO protections was made by a local GOP member going in on a transgender high-school student.
GOP Chairman Bill Korach said the “girl” is “confused,” saying that the student “ought to use the girl’s restroom” and “ought to get counseling.”
Adams has sued the school district, charging discrimination and petitioning to use the boys’ restroom.
Web.com coy on buyout rumors
If you’re looking for details on the future of Web.com, you might think CEO David Brown would give a hot quote. But you’d be mistaken.
The Jax Daily Record quoted his word salad from a quarterly call with investors, in which Brown was asked to address the rumor directly.
“Happy to comment on it and that comment is we don’t comment on market rumors about this type of topic,” he said.
“I think it’s worth noting that we’ve always been open to whatever would build long-term shareholder value, whatever maximizes our shareholders’ interests and we’ve said numerous times and continue to say that we talk to lots of people from strategic to financial players in the market. There are many reasons to talk to them,” Brown added.
As with another local business, CSX, lots of tea leaves are being read right now regarding the future.
Times-Union sells out
Morris Communications sold the Florida Times-Union to yet another big media company, Gatehouse, this week.
Morris billed the sale as “a strategic restructuring to focus its business on lifestyle publications, property development and new business.”
For T-U staffers, this ends a conflicted relationship with the parent company, which compelled the local paper to endorse President Donald Trump last year, and which also had introduced a more corporate feel in recent months, including electronic time card punches for reporters.
It’s going to get more corporate going forward. As the T-U reports, Gatehouse owns “more than 130 daily newspapers and more than 500 non-daily publications across the United States.”
T-U reporters who want to talk about this are welcome to get a beer sometime with our Jacksonville correspondent. He’s happy to listen.
JAXBIZ endorses Atlantic Beach incumbents
BeachesBIZ, a JAXBIZ subcommittee, is supporting incumbents in the races for Mayor of Atlantic Beach and Atlantic Beach City Commission.
The status quo will continue, with Mitch Reeves as the Mayoral pick, and Jimmy Hill and Mitch Harding getting commission nods.
“All of these candidates have proven their commitment to Atlantic Beach, focusing on a thriving local economy while continuing to improve the unmatched quality of life at the beach,” JAXBIZ Chair Denise Wallace said.
Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) launches a first-of-its-kind digital Manufacturers Marketplace at 3 p.m. EST at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, 111 Busch Drive in Jacksonville. A reception will follow the announcement.
The Manufacturers Marketplace is a web-based, searchable buyer/seller network featuring listings of hundreds of thousands of manufacturers in the United States, including Puerto Rico. Created in partnership with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and other leading state manufacturing associations, the Manufacturers Marketplace is designed to bolster manufacturers in the United States by helping them find, get found and advance their businesses. Register at AIF.com/marketplace.
Pay to play
College football for students at Keiser University? While that may sound counterintuitive, it is happening, reports the Florida Times-Union.
How to field a team with students from campuses across the state? Here’s what the new coach had to say.
“There’s just a lot going on. We’ve got to fill a roster, we’ve got to recruit the state, fill a coaching staff … have daily conversations about facilities, where we’re going to play and where we’re going to put these kids.”
On a positive note, the new athletic director expects robust road support. The students are already commuters.
“We have the advantage in that we have faculty and students [from other campuses around the state] that can come to games while we’re on the road,” the AD said.
PLAYERS back to March
The PLAYERS Championship may be moving back to its more traditional March place on the calendar, after years of taking place in May, the T-U reports.
“The Associated Press reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources, that the PGA will be played at the Bethpage State Park Black Course on Long Island in New York in May of 2019, clearing the way for The Players to move back to the March date it held from 1977 to 2006,” per the T-U.
“The Players, contested at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, will be held in May one more year under the expected schedule changes. The Tour has held a tournament on the First Coast since 1965, but was in March until Phil Mickelson won the 2007 Players in May,” the T-U adds.
Armada struggle in Puerto Rico
The Jacksonville Armada FC traveled to the Caribbean to take on Puerto Rico FC this past Saturday night for the first road trip of the Fall Season and the first trip under the new ownership of Robert Palm.
Puerto Rico claimed a 1-0 victory after what could only be described as a difficult 90 minutes for Jacksonville.
The Armada have been slumping of late, so Head Coach Mark Lowry boasted some changes in his starting lineup to show that eagerness. New forwards Brian Shriver and Tony Taylor received their first starts with the team, as well as defender Peabo Doue. Shriver and Taylor are both newcomers with Florida pedigree. Shriver is from Clearwater and previously played for Miami FC, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies. He led the NASL in playoff goals while playing for Fort Lauderdale in 2011. Taylor played for Jacksonville University and Lynch’s FC in 2009 an amateur Jacksonville club. He signed for Fort Lauderdale the next year and spent several years on loan in Europe before returning to North America to play in MLS.
The changes didn’t make much of a difference early as Puerto Rico was able to create opportunities and recorded 10 first half shots.
Jacksonville answered Puerto Rico’s offensive effort with a tough and resourceful defense, however. Mechack Jérôme cleared four chances, with Caleb Patterson-Sewell staying firm in front of the goal.
Puerto Rico’s effort was rewarded late in the first half. In the 43rd minute, Conor Doyle received a cross from Giuseppe Gentile to put the ball past Patterson-Sewell, and Puerto Rico took the 1-0 lead.
Jacksonville returned in the second half showing some initiative, but Puerto Rico continued to fire shots toward Patterson-Sewell.
Second half substitutions by the Armada FC brought some intensity to the side on the hot and humid Puerto Rico pitch.
Charles Eloundou was subbed in the 61st minute to give the Armada FC much-needed speed. He used it to motor up and around Puerto Rico’s defense and created a great chance in the 75th minute. He took a shot from a distance after receiving the ball from Zach Steinberger but Puerto Rico’s goalkeeper, Trevor Spangenberg, launched upward to knock it up and over the net. Doue received his second yellow card in the 85th minute and was ejected from the match. Although now only having 10 men, the Armada FC kept consistent defense to keep Puerto Rico from tallying another goal.
Jérôme attempted some late-match heroics with his effort just two minutes after Doue left the field. He launched a free kick straight toward the net, 550but it bounced off the crossbar and goal post to keep Puerto Rico in the lead.
Jacksonville could not find the net before the final whistle, so Puerto Rico took all three points at home. This marks the first loss of the Fall Season for the Armada FC and extends the Armada’s current winless streak to five.
And even in the JSO budget hearing Thursday, conversation kept coming back to officer comportment and public perception of the embattled police department.
Multiple Council members wondered why Tyler Landreville was back on patrol, just months after killing Vernell Bing.
Meanwhile, Williams discussed the pressures faced by law enforcement, which wreck the lives of some officers: alcoholism, divorce, and other signals of stress are all-too-frequent companions of law enforcement.
With Williams seeking 100 new police officers, we asked him if the shortfall in officers on the street exacerbated that stress. And we asked him also about why Landreville is back on the beat — even though he’s in a different zone now than he was when he shot Bing.
“As the case unfolds initially, if there are some big factors that warrant us moving the [officer] off the street, we do that immediately,” Williams said.
“The decision about prosecution is always made by the State Attorney’s Office. If there’s no initial concern, then that individual is left on the street,” Williams added.
“This case is a little bit different obviously. You’ve got concern from the community,” Williams continued. “Our process has always been and for the current time will be that as you get cleared to come back to work, get your fit for duty, psych eval, as those things happen, pending the State Attorney’s review, you can come back to work.”
If the State Attorney were to press charges, Williams said, the JSO would remove that officer from the street, putting him in a “duty capacity that doesn’t have contact with the public.”
Williams discussed the mental and behavioral issues that cops experience in the context of a well-documented shortfall in staffing, one that creates pressures for those in the field.
“I think — universally, I won’t say yes, but could that be part of those issues? It sure can. We’re driving these guys to do the things that need to get done, we’re driving overtime. A lot of these guys are working extra assignments. So there is an overwork component to that,” Williams said.
While an overworked workforce is a potential contributing factor to what Williams has called officer “misconduct,” he doesn’t believe that they are the sole factor, and he stresses that people should look at how the JSO responds to them.
“When it happens, we have to respond. And we’re kind of put in the position to do that. We’ll always respond this way There’s no quarter for that. You’re not going to be able to do that and work for this organization,” Williams said.
“The relationship we have with the community and the trust we’ve built in this community is too important. We’ve made some great strides there, but you can lose it like that. The best way to lose it is to let people cut corners, and we’re not going to do that.”
Jacksonville City Councilors made the long walk from the Council suite to the Mayor’s Office Wednesday afternoon, for promised “refreshments” with Lenny Curry.
In a period of transition for the Council, the public notice meeting was worthy of notice; it was a conscious forging of camaraderie and unity, and one well-timed, with the Finance Committee taking up the city’s budget Thursday.
The mood was jolly — one reporter wondered if there was Xanax in the coffee. The meeting was all velvet glove and no iron fist.
In a sense, the meeting was a Halftime Show — midway through the term, a check-in point and an opportunity for policy and conceptual alignment between the executive and legislative branches.
In the house: most of the Council, including Council President Anna Brosche and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, two Councilors who have broken with Curry on various policy issues in recent weeks.
Curry noted that when the group came together two years ago, the topic was pension reform.
“While we haven’t agreed on every path, we do agree on the destination,” Curry said, reminding Councilman Tommy Hazouri of the time Curry dissed him with a Jay-Z line.
“I said you wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight,” Curry said. “Boy, I got that wrong.”
This very much was a One City One Jacksonville meeting — unity was the watchword.
Councilwoman Katrina Brown lauded Curry for his honesty, calling him “very forward” and extolling his “taking on the tough challenges.”
Councilman Reggie Gaffney likewise extolled Curry, celebrating the Mayor’s strong team.
Councilman Tommy Hazouri was happy about the “major issues,” like the HRO, “put behind us.”
Curry quickly chimed in with “absolutely.”
“The next Council, the next Mayor,” Curry said, “will have a foundation … that was built by us.”
Councilman Reggie Brown took the long view, saying he’d “like to get back to a place where partisanship doesn’t have a place.”
“Absolutely,” said Curry.
“I like the way that we’re gelling. I like the direction,” Brown said, noting that he’s learned the priorities of the whole city as part of the “real holistic approach” taken by the Council.
“The public sees this,” Curry said. “They tell me ‘keep going.’ People believe in our city, believe we’re getting things done.”
Council President Anna Brosche suggested that “we can get together [socially] if we have a meeting that ends before 11:00.”
“The Mayor can stop watching us on TV and join us,” Brosche added.
Curry, discussing Bill Gulliford, noted that “his hip hop name is Billy G — he’s got it going on.”
On the matter of policy, Curry said priorities were education, public safety, and children’s issues.
“Education isn’t under our purview,” Curry said, but he is looking to influence the process going forward, and follow on the reform vision of Nikolai Vitti.
Curry also pitched his “100 new cops” proposal.
“It’s not about having 1,800 cops to go out and arrest people,” Curry said, noting it’s “about being able to go in the community and build relationships.”
Curry also discussed the Kids Hope Alliance reforms, saying the re-org is about accountability.
“We are going to fundamentally change the way we serve kids,” Curry said.
Curry also addressed downtown, noting the Laura Street Trio is in progress, and his downtown development trip.
“It’s about tying the riverfront into sports and entertainment … getting ideas and getting it right,” Curry said, citing transportation and other factors.
Residential development, Curry said, ties into retail and other development downtown.
“As we’ve done for two years, any deal we bring to you,” Curry said, “has got to be a win for everybody.”
Retail development, said Curry, can drive sales tax revenues in sports districts.
However, “for the record … I’m not proposing any new tax,” Curry said.
After the event wrapped, we asked Curry what he hoped to accomplish — especially regarding healing the rifts that have seemingly emerged on Council.
“When we had lunch together two years ago,” Curry said, “it was a statement to ourselves and to the public that the executive branch and the legislative branch were going to communicate and work together for the people of Jacksonville.”
“We haven’t agreed [sometimes]. There’s been a lot of one-on-one discussions with Council members about how we get to a certain goal. We’ve figured out how to get there,” Curry added.
The conversation Wednesday, Curry said, was a “feel good discussion,” to remind all parties of “where we’ve been and keep moving forward.”
Curry expressed confidence also in the current Council Finance committee’s ability to grasp the budget.
“They have a role. Their job — I respect their job and their role, and the budget process will have to play itself out,” Curry said.
“The budget I presented is thoughtful. It’s a clear statement of priorities. We’ll just have to get through the process. I stand by what I presented. It says a lot and means a lot to the people of Jacksonville.”
Have the promises made when the city of Jacksonville consolidated with Duval County half a century ago been fulfilled?
That’s an open question, and one with a spectrum of answers ranging from “nope” to “things have actually gotten better for most of the city.”
On Tuesday, members of the Jacksonville City Council convened to discuss Consolidation — specifically, the work of the city’s Consolidation Task Force.
However, rather than a holistic discussion, these legislators got into the weeds of structure and potential changes.
Councilors Bill Gulliford, Greg Anderson, Lori Boyer, John Crescimbeni were in the house, as was the city’s chief administrative officer, Sam Mousa.
Boyer began by correcting the record from a previous Council meeting regarding the work of the Consolidation Task Force not having come to pass; in fact, she said, much of it did, including charter amendments.
However, there is unfinished business — including term limits.
“There were all kinds of scenarios being floated,” Boyer said, without Task Force consensus regarding the three four-year terms in a current bill.
Boyer reviewed the previous work of the task force at some length, which got deep into policy weeds very quickly.
One such thatch of arbor: a discussion of interlocal agreements with independent agencies and smaller municipalities in the county.
Gulliford noted that there isn’t a master aggregation of interlocal agreements, and wanted a list of them.
“Every time I turn around, there’s a new interlocal agreement popping up,” Gulliford quipped.
Vetoes also came up.
“Currently there is a different standard for overriding line item vetoes than there is any other item,” Boyer said, in advocating a change to need 13 votes to override a budget veto.
Councilman Greg Anderson suggested that the entire “convoluted” veto process needs review, given byzantine wording.
Boyer agreed that there could be review, vis a vis timing.
Zero-based budgeting: also discussed.
Boyer noted that, in the absence of a “strategic plan, you can’t do it because there’s nothing to judge against.”
IT billing cost controls: also a robust topic of discussion. As were functions that have been opted out from central services over the years for a variety of reasons, many of them related to departmental specialization.
“Central services has eroded,” Mousa said.
Gulliford concurred, saying that it was consolidated government itself that eroded.
There is plenty to do, of course.
One ongoing initiative: a task force to deal with public health issues.
Employee health: another issue to be dealt with. Mousa suggested Mayor Curry may want to deal with that task force.
And changes in health care could be contemplated.
“The county hospital model is becoming a thing of the past in most cities,” Boyer remarked.
The expansion of CPACs – Citizen Planning Advisory Committees — also was up for discussion.
“When we consolidated, we became a big bureaucratic entity,” Boyer said, with CPACs serving an important role to bring localism to the larger government.
While CPACs were helpful in terms of capital improvement suggestions in the most recent budget, there was no consensus as to how their functions could be expanded, or made more uniform.
As well, bringing the discussion back full circle, a discussion of allocating a fixed amount of the capital improvement program budget to the promises made before Consolidation happened.
Boyer noted that would come out of general fund dollars.
“Part of the argument for Consolidation,” Boyer said, was standardizing city services.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is all about loyalty, and much of this edition comes back to the idea of one’s squad as a result.
For example, there’s Curry’s candidate in the House District 15 race to succeed Jay Fant, who is running for Attorney General instead of pursuing re-election.
And then there’s the push to sell reform of the city’s children’s programs. He worked the Council, asking for support. Fourteen of the 19 were there at the press event. And some of those who did not attend had plausible reasons for not being there. While others’ reasons, including at least one Council leader, occasioned more scrutiny from Curry’s inner circle.
Of course, Curry isn’t the only executive concerned with his squad. Sheriff Mike Williams addressed what happens when a president of your own party jokes about police brutality while getting his own squad together from the donor class.
As ever: teamwork makes the dream work, in politics and policy both.
Al Lawson, Dems file student loan relief bill
For those dealing with student loan debt, there’s some good news: Rep. Lawson filed a bill this week that would allow refinancing at a lower rate and would eliminate the tax penalty for loan forgiveness.
The bill has a dozen sponsors, all Democrats — a discouraging augury given that the White House has shown no leanings toward student loan forgiveness measures of any type.
“Unfortunately, the cost of college has increased significantly in the last decade, and for many Americans, this avenue to a brighter future has become unaffordable. Reducing student debt will help increase economic activity and provide our nation’s students with the relief and opportunity they deserve,” Lawson said.
The bill, if passed in its current form, would also eliminate origination fees.
New VA Clinic for Jacksonville
First Coast News reports that a House bill passed late last month includes good news for local veterans.
“The portion of the bill that directly impacts Jacksonville involves the potential clinic constructed at an undecided location. If the bill is signed into law, the future clinic will replace Jacksonville VA Southpoint and Jacksonville VA University,” FCN reports.
All told, those outmoded facilities encompass 50,000 square feet of space.
Good news: “if the bill is signed into law the plan for the lease includes a facility that encompasses about 164,000 square feet in the Jacksonville area with 1,150 parking spaces.”
Bad news: this could take up to five years to become a reality.
The Florida Commission on Ethics found “no probable cause to believe that Senator Bean misused his position to secure an appropriation in the State budget for a business venture in which he was personally involved, and dismissed the allegation,” according to a Wednesday news release.
Bean had vigorously maintained his innocence, but reports out of Naples, Florida — the first tip-off that something was amiss — heated up the story … mostly because the reporter in question knew nothing about the sketchy background of the tipster.
Let’s see when the stories emerge clearing Bean’s name. We’ll wait.
More financial ethics issues have emerged for Rep. Daniels. And they could lead to action in the Florida House against the Jacksonville Democrat.
The Florida Ethics Commission found probable cause to believe that Daniels filed inaccurate Form 6s, representing financial disclosures for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Kim Daniels FEC investigation.
Daniels failed to list properties owned by her churches, which added up to $1,000,000 of undeclared assets. Indeed, her churches had multiple properties — “parsonages” in various cities, time shares and over a dozen cars.
Daniels, at that point, was serving her term on the Jacksonville City Council.
Daniels has faced similar scrutiny related to campaign finance before: the Florida Elections Commission found probable cause that Daniels spent campaign funds advertising one of her religious books, the Demon Dictionary, in a vanity-press publication called Shofar.
Daniels, a traveling evangelist, went through a rocky divorceearlier this decade, one which led to sensational allegations regarding her management of household and church finances.
Her 2016 financial disclosure revealed salary of roughly $200,000 from preaching and a net worth of just under $600,000.
Daniels could settle or could have an administrative hearing regarding these charges.
Daniels is not talking to Florida Politics about these matters. She interviewed with Action News Jaxrecently, in which she vigorously denied the findings of the state commissions.
Mia Jones backs Gillum for Governor
Tallahassee Mayor Gillum rolled out the most significant Jacksonville endorsement of his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor Wednesday, in the form of former State Rep. Jones.
Jones called Gillum a “tireless public servant willing to take on the tough fights … just the kind of leader Floridians need now.”
“He will rebuild our economy, so it creates better-paying jobs at every rung of the income ladder; protect and defend our access to affordable health care; fight for public school students’ education, and confront our climate change crisis,” Jones said, saying that Gillum would “fight for what we believe in.”
Gillum is “thrilled” with Jones’ endorsement, calling her a “fierce fighter for affordable health care and common-sense health care policies,” an advocate for “our most vulnerable seniors in Florida nursing homes,” and “a champion for our historically black universities and all of Florida’s higher education institutions.”
The two are excited to campaign together, both said.
Gillum and Gwen Graham are the only two candidates for the Democratic nomination making a play in Jacksonville.
Graham has endorsements from former Mayors Tommy Hazouri and Jake Godbold, along with City Councilman Garrett Dennis.
Mayor’s man to take HD 15 GOP nod?
With Rep. Fant still gunning for the Republican nod for Attorney General, questions emerged regarding his replacement… but it seems we know who that will be, with local establishment favorite Wyman Duggan poised to enter.
Duggan will have some road-tested names running his operation: Tim Baker as consultant, Brian Hughes on comms. Baker and Hughes — the top talent working this market — will have the resources they need for whatever campaign awaits the candidate.
Expect a top-shelf finance committee behind Duggan, especially given that Duval GOP legend John Falconetti and Jacksonville Mayor Curry have been crucial to urging Duggan to run and getting support from local stakeholders.
Curry and Rep. Jason Fischer have formally endorsed Duggan; more endorsements are coming.
Re-org for children’s programs
Announced this week: Curry will roll the JCC and the Jacksonville Journey into one new structure: the Kids’ Hope Alliance(the Jacksonville Partnership for Children, Youth and Families).
The group will have a seven-person board, comprised of mayoral appointees who must be approved by the City Council; as with Curry’s reformation of the JEA Board earlier in his term, the goal is to move the organization toward linear accountability.
The transition period will take six months: the first three months, starting in October, will allow the Journey and the JCC to finish their business; by January, a board should be seated to carry on the KHA’s mission. If that doesn’t happen, Plan B is to run JCC and Jax Journey out of the Mayor’s Office, until the board is approved by City Council.
The strong indication is that the board will be in place by the end of the year, however.
Curry is prioritizing business-minded people with big picture visions and strong resumes for board inclusion, similar again to his reformation of the JEA Board. Board members will understand finance and organizational structure, Curry said and would understand the necessity of hiring management and staff that understands the mechanics of the services offered.
Fourteen council members have agreed to co-sponsor the measure so far.
Media questions Mayor’s ethics
Jacksonville Mayor Curry took a business development trip with Jaguars owner and mega donor Shad Khan in July, and questions, via First Coast News, are still being raised about the ethics of it all.
The trip to Kansas City, Baltimore and St. Louis was framed by Curry as an endeavor to “know their ideas and their failures to move our downtown forward.”
City Ethics Director Carla Miller is reviewing the trip, though she notes that there is no law against a mayor flying on a private jet.
Miller has up to 90 days to conclude her review.
Jax Sheriff talks Donald Trump’s “paddy wagon” joke.
Jacksonville Sheriff Williams addressed President DonaldTrump’s recent “joke” about police brutality this week, making it clear those comments weren’t helpful to local law enforcement.
“I try to stay away from getting involved, trying to justify anything the president says,” Williams noted.
“Talking about Jacksonville, and what appears to be a joke about police brutality, we take that very seriously,” Williams said.
“We’ve shown in the last two years, when it comes to police brutality and misconduct, that we take it very seriously and act swiftly and appropriately. That’s the lens through which we should look at Jacksonville — how we respond to stuff,” Williams added.
“I’d encourage people to look at what we do in Jacksonville and how we respond,” Williams continued, “instead of broad-brushing us with a joke from D.C.”
Williams is looking to add 100 new officers this year, which will make the department “appropriately-sized” and facilitate the kind of community policing that he would like to see more of.
First in Bold: Williams committee posts strong June numbers
“A Safe Jacksonville,” the political committee for Sheriff Williams, reported strong fundraising in July.
A $60,000+ month has the committee with over $80,000 on hand — and, says our source, that is even with fundraising not having started seriously until July 12.
Among the bigger names of the donors: Toney Sleiman, who ponied up $5,000; Gary Chartrand, at the same level; Travis Cummings, at $5,000 via committees; Ander Crenshaw at $3,500; and John Falconetti at $2,500.
Sauce loss for Jax in worthless default judgment
Last week, the city of Jacksonville won a $222,000 default judgment against businesses belonging to the family of Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown.
This judgment was the culmination of a long-standing legal action against CoWealth LLC and Basic Products LLC, two shell companies of the Brown family that — back in 2011 — accepted roughly $600,000 in loans and grants designed to kick-start a BBQ sauce plant that was intended to be a job-creating engine for Northwest Jacksonville.
Alas, the engine stalled — of the 56 jobs that were intended to be created, zero permanent jobs came to pass.
An amended motion for default was filed by the city with the Duval County Court on June 20, with the city pressing two shell companies — “CoWealth LLC” and “Basic Products LLC” — for $210,549.99 in claw-back money and another $10,585.01 for interest, calculated back to June 2016, when the city of Jacksonville began to move toward litigation.
Jax mulls suit of opioid producers
As part of its ongoing fight against opioid overdoses, the city of Jacksonville is mulling a lawsuit against Big Pharma companies, a strategy discussed Thursday afternoon by Councilman Bill Gulliford in Council Chambers.
Making a presentation at the meeting: Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, a firm which has specialized in class action consumer protection suits, including a successful action against Enron years ago for billions of dollars.
There is a precedent for such legal action being taken. Reutersreports that Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri are all suing pharmaceutical companies, on the grounds of their aggressive marketing running afoul of consumer protection laws.
Closer to home, Delray Beachis suing opioid manufacturers, claiming that their product spawned the city’s heroin epidemic, with each overdose costing the town $2,000 — a number that Gulliford said didn’t sound unreasonable, given the expenses of transport and treatment for each victim.
The law firm that presented in Jacksonville Thursday is the same one representing Delray Beach in its action.
Wally Lee, RIP
This week, Jacksonville mourned former Jax Chamber President Lee, who saw the organization through a period of local and regional growth and transition.
The Jax Daily Record notes that Lee had a blood infection after emergency surgery for a spinal cyst in late July.
Local notables lauded Lee’s legacy.
Jax Chamber President Daniel Davis described Lee as “passionate about growing Jacksonville and pushing our city forward.”
Former Mayor John Delaney, whose eight years in office coincided with part of Lee’s leadership of the Chamber, described the body as “particularly strong” under his presidency.
Save the date: Travis Hutson Deep-Sea Invitational
State Sen. Hutson is hosting his Third Annual Deep-Sea Fishing Invitational at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, Wednesday, Aug. 23, and Thursday, Aug. 24. Wednesday highlights include a 4:45 p.m. tour of the St. Augustine Distillery and 6:30 p.m. dinner at Prohibition Kitchen. On Thursday, the day starts with 6:30 a.m. shuttle to the Marina for a 7:15 a.m. departure. The evening finishes with a 6:30 p.m. fish fry at Costa Brava Restaurant.
Casa Monica Hotel is at 95 Cordova St. in St. Augustine. A special hotel group rate is $169 per night. For more information, contact Brianna Jordan at 203-313-4695 or Brianna@frontstreetflorida.com.
John Thrasher among nominees for veterans’ hall
The News Service of Florida reports that Florida State University President Thrasher, a former state House speaker who served in the Vietnam War, is among 20 candidates for spots in the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame. The Florida Veterans Hall of Fame Council gives the maximum number of names to Gov. Scott and the Cabinet to consider for enshrinement in the hall of fame. Scott and the Cabinet — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — are expected to vote on the nominees Sept. 26.
The 2016 class, which featured 11 inductees, included the late Gov. Reubin Askew, the late Gov. LeRoy Collins, the late Gov. and U.S. Sen. Spessard Holland and former state Rep. William Proctor of St. Augustine.
Shuffle off to Amazon
The Florida Times-Union reports that the Jacksonville Transportation Authority is launching a shuttle Aug. 7 to the North Jacksonville Amazon facility. Timed around shift changes, the shuttle will move between JTA’s park-and-ride facility at 3191 Armsdale Road, just south of I-295, and Amazon, 12900 Pecan Park Road
While the Armsdale hub offers parking spaces and bike racks but is also part of the First Coast Flyer route, which connects it to the rest of the JTA system.
The initial schedule has buses running 30 minutes before and finishing 30 minutes after each shift change and will arrive every five to seven minutes. Cost is $1.50 each way, or $3 roundtrip. A trip from another hub within the city to Armsdale adds another $1.50 each way.
UNF beer study to examine yeast strain, flavoring
The University of North Florida is investigating the yeast strain Brettanomyces, which has been a traditional flavor component for beer, but one that proves difficult in winemaking.
UNF biology professor Dr. Michael Lentz has study Brettanomyces for about five years, telling the Florida Times-Union: “We can’t taste it or smell it, but once the yeast gets ahold of it, it becomes a flavor component” that is become popular with craft beer brewers.
Found throughout the globe, the yeast strain is common in Florida fields. Lentz is examining how the strain thrives, evolves and interacts with fermented drinks.
To Jacksonville-based powerbroker Marty Fiorentino, leader of the Fiorentino Group, who celebrates today.
Jax Zoo begins work on African Forest great apes exhibit
Work has started on the new Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens exhibit for inhabitants of the Great Apes Loop reports the Florida Times-Union. Construction, which should continue through this time next year, will ultimately feature overhead trails, more true-to-life habitat and will have a 40-foot tropical tree as a centerpiece.
Tony Vecchio, the zoo’s executive director, tells the T-U the $9 million project is worth the wait, for better viewing, “wellness-inspired” design and “transformative” foliage
Now one of the zoo’s oldest exhibits, the Great Apes area first premiered in 1998 and was quickly expanded.
Armada start Robert Palmer era with draw at home
The Jacksonville Armada started off the NASL Fall Season with a draw against the San Francisco Deltas. This was the team’s first game since announcing the new owner, Robert Palmer, who purchased the club earlier this month.
Kartik Krishnaiyer is reporting that Armada FC goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell began a great defensive effort with an outstanding save in the first minutes of the match. He extended his entire frame to hit the ball over the bar, stopping the promising shot from the Deltas.
Soon after, attacker Jackson of the Deltas sprinted ahead of the pack up the field and kicked the ball right into the box, but it stopped short of the goal. Delta’s Forward Tom Heinemann was in the box, and tried to tap the ball in but missed and the Armada was able to clear what could have given San Francisco an early lead.
Derek Gebhard gave the Armada an opportunity minutes later, as he dueled with defenders and was able to get a good look at the goal. Gebhard kicked the ball just high of the goal but was tackled by Jackson, who subsequently received a yellow card.
J.C. Banks launched a shot on goal during the 32nd minute, the Armada’s first of the match. Charles Eloundou set the midfielder up for a promising kick, but the shot went just high of the goal.
With momentum on their side, Gebhard was able to break away from his defender but was fouled. He was awarded a penalty kick for Jacksonville.
Jack Blake stepped up to take the penalty kick in the 35th minute and nailed the first goal of the Robert Palmer era. The midfielder launched the ball into the right side of the net beating out San Francisco’s goalkeeper, Romuald Peiser, giving the Armada FC a 1-0 lead.
Patterson-Sewell made a clutch save in the 43rd minute as he punched the ball away from the goal. About a minute later he made another save, as he knocked another shot on goal just over the crossbar solidifying the Armada’s 1-0 lead late in the first half.
The Armada FC had two near-misses during first half stoppage time. Gebhard sprinted in front of his defender and created space just outside of the box. He kicked the ball within striking distance, but no one was there to put the ball into the net.
Minutes later Blake tried once more for a goal too and headed the ball, but it went just outside of the net.
The Armada FC went into the halftime break with a 1-0 lead over the Deltas.
Jacksonville came out of the break with the initiative looking to get the elusive second goal. Eloundou and Banks were both able to take nice shots, but Peiser blocked both efforts.
The Deltas did not give up and during the 58th minute, Danny Cruz was able to equalize the score at one.
Patterson-Sewell made another great save after an Armada FC defensive miscommunication almost resulted in a goal. The goalkeeper roared with pride after he made a spectacular and pivotal play during the 67th minute to keep the Deltas from gaining more ground.
“It was a matter of trying [and] … hoping for the best. You train for that kind of stuff when the time is right there is no time to think about it; you just have to [rely] on your training. I was fortunate to keep it out,” said Patterson-Sewell.
Gebhard displayed his speed when he sprinted up the field attempting a shot on goal, but the ball went just wide left leaving the score knotted at one.
Blake continued the Armada FC’s momentum as he took another shot on goal in the 84th minute, but Peiser saved the shot.
Heinemann put the ball into the back of the net during the 90th minute, but the goal was waved off for a foul.
The teams ended the game at 1-1, resulting in a draw.
“It’s not the worst start. We got the draw, but hopefully, we can bounce back and get the win next week,” said Jack Blake. The Armada FC will head south and travel to Puerto Rico. The match will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says lawmakers have authorized seven new medical facilities for veterans in Florida.
Nelson said in a news release Wednesday that the new Veterans Affairs facilities will be located in Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Ocala, Tampa and Lakeland, with two in Gainesville. A total of 28 around the country were approved. Some are replacements for clinics already operating, while others are new.
By law, Congress must approve any VA leases that would result in an average rental payment of more than $1 million per year.
The legislation authorizing the new Florida facilities was included in a larger veterans’ health care bill. The measure, which was approved by the House last week, heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.
Monday morning saw Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and City Council President Anna Broscheannounce that $1.071M of new money would be available for after school programs this coming academic year.
With reforms to be announced Wednesday morning at a press conference for the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey this week, this is another short-term solution to a problem that Curry doesn’t want to see in the long term, with money to pay for it swept out of various accounts — more detail on that will come in the filed legislation.
Curry’s statement spoke to that “Band-Aid” solution reality, ahead of meetings with nine Council members on Monday, more on Tuesday, and a Wednesday press conference to announce comprehensive reforms.
“Council President Brosche and I remain committed to creating a city where children from their earliest age through young adulthood have the tools and resources to thrive,” said Mayor Curry.
“As I’ve stated many times before, our youth are our city’s future, and I believe every child deserves access to programs and initiatives that will build brighter futures, pathways and opportunities for them,” Curry added.
“Although we are pleased to increase the offerings and improve access, we recognize that this is essentially a Band-Aid. It is another stopgap measure to help meet the urgent needs of children this school year, which is why the reforms that I will be introducing are essential to our children,” Curry continued.
Much of Curry’s summer has been occupied with the problem of underfunded summer camps.
The city allocated nearly a million dollars to funding camps for underprivileged youth in June. Despite such an allocation, hiccups remained in the dispersal of money to providers, at least one of which was running the program out of her own pocket.
Curry has promised reforms to the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and Jacksonville Journey frameworks, and one should expect those to be rolled out in the coming days. A significant architect of the Journey vision, we hear, is involved in the schematics.
The reforms, CP Brosche said, would be “structural in nature.” (For an analogue of such structural reforms, one might consider Curry’s reforms of the JEA Board, to which he brought people who shared his vision, who then instituted changes in governance and accointability).
JCC will continue to exist and be independent, per Brosche, a vision that accords with her larger vision for the city’s children.
Council President Brosche added, via statement, the following.
“Back to school is a time when students, families and educators are full of hope about the new school year,” said Brosche. “How the city wraps itself around our children is one of the most important investments we can make in our future. I appreciate and applaud Mayor Curry’s efforts to find and reallocate budget resources to reach more children.”
Council members beyond Brosche are conceptually in favor of reform, but they all have individual concerns — which will come up this week as the Mayor meets with Council members one-on-one, with nine meetings slated for Monday alone.
Southside Republican Scott Wilson notes that some of his neighborhoods struggle like those that are in the ten Jacksonville Journey zip codes, and wants to ensure that his district’s interests are protected.
Councilman Reggie Gaffney, one of the first Council members to meet with the Mayor, noted that reforms would be unveiled in a Wednesday press conference — and that he support Curry’s “vision to restructure” the beleaguered JCC’s changes.
“The program will be totally different,” Gaffney said. “I do support his vision and direction.”
Also supporting Curry’s reforms: Councilwoman Katrina Brown, who took to Facebook Monday afternoon to communicate that commitment
Councilman John Crescimbeni, meanwhile, described his chat with Curry as a “preliminary conversation,” suggesting that details would be in legislation from the Mayor’s Office, expected to drop this week.
Expect that those who appear Wednesday with Curry at the aforementioned press conference share his vision for reform.
And those who don’t, meanwhile, may be hazarding a certain level of risk vis a vis the Mayor’s Office.
If this week’s issue of Bold has a unifying theme, it’s “institutional knowledge.”
What that phrase means, in a political sense: knowing your milieu, learning what you can and can’t do in office. “Passing the torch,” so to speak.
For our area’s congressmen, you will see below how the power of knowing one’s way around Capitol Hill translates into a smoother path to re-election than to the first election.
For Jacksonville’s mayor, it means knowing that whatever blowback might be received in the press for an early-week junket with the city’s leading businessman may be worth the benefit.
And for the folks on Jacksonville’s City Council, the phrase is a double-edged sword.
There are some who believe institutional knowledge is conferred via osmosis … or title. Not the case.
The phrase comes down to being able to manipulate the levers of power — whether one has the title or not.
Institutions, by necessity, function best with stable, merit-based hierarchy. When that hierarchy is subverted, things get interesting.
Al Lawson, John Rutherford pack war chests
First-year Jacksonville-area Congressmen Rutherford and Lawson may have different party labels.
But they both have strong fundraisingin the latest campaign finance report, suggesting that either will be tough outs in primaries.
Rutherford hauled in over $155,000 off 69 total contributions from January to June 2017; Lawson brought in over $158,000 off 118 total contributions, doing even better than Rutherford.
Rutherford’s committee has over $132,000 on hand, a number offset by nearly $96,000 in debts.
Lawson, still without that Jacksonville challenger, has over $148,000 on hand — a number offset by nearly $79,000 in debts and loans.
Most compelling donor? The political committee of House Speaker Paul Ryan, giving to Rutherford.
Lawson talks ‘blue collar’ outreach
The Tallahassee Democrat was on hand for Lawson’s recent comments at the North Florida Democratic Club’s summer picnic.
Lawson, a Democrat representing Congressional District 5, worries that the party has forgotten its core message.
“Fourteen percent of African-American men voted for Donald Trump. Fifty-three percent of white women voted for Donald Trump,” Lawson said.
“This, we can’t let happen anymore in America. We are the ones who have fought for Social Security, fought for equal pay for women, fought for Medicaid. They are the ones who want to cut,” Lawson added.
Lawson cited the party’s enthusiasm gap with the “blue collar worker,” urging those on hand to reach out to groups that help to consolidate the base.
Mike Williams, Melissa Nelson show up for Ashley Moody
Tuesday was not a great day for the campaign of Rep. Jay Fant for Attorney General — as his GOP primary opponent, Ashley Moody, held a fundraiser in his backyard.
Among the significant attendees are two of the biggest names in #jaxpol: Sheriff Williams, who helmed the host committee; and 4th Circuit State Attorney Nelson — who is not endorsing in this one, but is pictured with the candidate below.
On the host committee: Gary Chartrand, the charter school impresario, and Nelson supporter; Hank Coxe, one of the leading defense attorneys in the state, and Nelson supporter; Buddy Schulz, another key Nelson ally.
We weren’t on hand, alas … but we did have eyes in the room, and here’s what those eyes saw.
Attendees comprised a “who’s who of Ortega and Avondale” — the heart of Fant’s House district, and a short walk from where he kicked off his own AG money campaign.
Worth watching: how much money Moody harvests from Jacksonville donors, as reflected on her next campaign finance report.
Already, the money race is uglier than 5 p.m. on the Fuller-Warren bridge.
Lenny Curry flies the friendly skies, Shad Khan style
An early-week trip by Jacksonville Mayor Curry and Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa caught the eye of the Florida Times-UnionTuesday … as it was on Jags’ owner Khan’s corporate jet.
Described as “a two-day trip to St. Louis and Baltimore to take care of official and political work,” T-U scribe Nate Monroe asserted multiple purposes for the trip, including a discussion of “downtown development.”
“What compelled Curry to take the trip, or who he is meeting with to discuss downtown development ideas or his political career, is not clear,” Monroe writes.
Whether clear or not, Curry and Mousa — in an email exchange — extolled the virtues of the trip so far.
Curry to Mousa: “Let’s debrief quickly after today’s St. Louis trip and tomorrow’s Baltimore on downtown development. We need to discuss design, finance, infrastructure.”
“Yes, sir. Interesting and creative matters we learned today.”
Likewise opaque: who is paying for the trip.
As it could be another in a series of Khan-tributions to Curry’s “Build Something That Lasts” political committee, the finance report for the committee will be worth watching to see precise valuations and itemizations of Curry’s junket.
Paul Renner to take over Ways and Means
To the victor goes the spoils. Rep. Rennerof Palm Coast — fresh off winning the Speaker’s race for 2022 — will get some gavel practice by helming the Florida House Ways and Means Committee.
This role will give Renner some practice with the purse strings, and said practice will be during an interesting year — a watershed election on the state level, with all constitutional offices in play.
Renner, though representing Palm Coast, is very much a Jacksonville guy — a local lawyer who came within two votes of representing Jacksonville itself in the Florida House in 2014.
Jason Fischer: Audit the School Board!
On Monday, State Rep. Fischer proposed a state financial audit of the Duval County School Board on which he served until last year.
Fischer’s take: the district is more concerned about potentially suing over the controversial “Schools of Hope” bill he advocated than it is with getting its “financial house in order,” after recent revelations of spending $21M beyond its budget.
Fischer has a backup on the board: fellow Republican Scott Shine, who already has amassed $30,000 for his own re-election bid to the body, “welcomes” such an audit.
In an open letter released Tuesday, Shine wrote that he is “not concerned with the possibility of a Legislative Audit.”
“As I suggested to the board [July 18, we need to institute additional peer review and a Legislative audit can be a part of that review process,” Shine wrote.
Shine also noted that the CFO responsible for the budget imbalance was “removed,” in light of the “considerable mistake” made by the budget office.
Garrett Dennis: More cops, please!
Jacksonville progressives are pushing back against Mayor Curry’s proposal to hire more cops. But City Council Finance Chair Dennis is riding with the Mayor on this one.
Dennis, who attends roughly a dozen community meetings a month, has “yet to hear that we have too many police officers.”
“I understand their concerns,” Dennis said regarding the JPC position, “but I have yet to hear that at any neighborhood association meeting.”
Many in Dennis’ District 9 experience a certain type of more aggressive policing than do those in neighboring District 14.
“Look at the crime stats, and see what crimes are committed” in each district.
Dennis notes that the crimes that predominate in District 9 are of a certain type: “aggravated assault, drugs, violent crime.”
In District 14, meanwhile, the crimes are of a different type, such as “break-ins and auto thefts.”
“The tactics are going to be different based on the crime,” Dennis said.
Term limits bill on ice
When in doubt, defer.
That was the conclusion drawn by the Jacksonville City Council, which opted to defer action on a controversial bill that, if passed, would allow an almost-certain-to-fail referendum to extend term limits for Jacksonville elected officials, allowing three consecutive terms for all offices but the Mayor.
The bill sailed through committees but stalled out in the full Council — with marginalized Council vets John Crescimbeni, Bill Gulliford, andTommy Hazouri (all of whom got shafted in committee assignments, and missed out on the debate) cooling enthusiasm among many colleagues.
While bill sponsor Matt Schellenberg got help from Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, Tuesday’s exercise was a reminder of political reality.
While it may be possible to shunt Gulliford, Hazouri, and Crescimbeni to the side, if the three of them are aligned, they make a formidable dissident bloc … one that could make budget deliberations in August and September really interesting for a Council President who got installed via a loose coalition that may have only been viable for the leadership vote.
Jags reach out to region
The Jacksonville Jaguars are redoubling (or re-tripling at this point?) its efforts to build a regional fan base, the Florida Times-Union reports.
The problem, as it’s been historically: the bulk of tickets are sold in Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties. Baker and Nassau: negligible factors. And beyond that? Gets perilously close to Bucs/Falcons/Dolphins country.
But they’ve got to keep choppin’ wood, with Gainesville, Tallahassee, Brunswick and even Orlando suburbs in the mix.
People travel to Jacksonville for single games, but as anyone who has been to a Jags game knows, they are often there to cheer the road team on.
The Jags’ goal: to become the Green Bay Packers of the South. Easier to do that with more 11-5 years than 5-11 letdowns.
Northwest Florida continues to attempt a response to the opioid crisis crushing the nation.
Action News Jaxreports that Baker County Commissioner Cathy Rhoden has a daughter addicted to heroin, and Rhoden hopes to parlay that personal experience into community education.
Rhoden’s goal: to start a task force, similar to that already in the county for meth.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville saw a conference of people on the front lines of the battle in the region, and First Coast News was on hand.
Clearly dominating the Canadian market, it would appear Trafalgar wants to move south of the border.
Verklempt over Volstead
There’s a tear in A.G. Gancarski’s absinthe cocktail, as his favorite bar — the Volstead — is set to close next month, reports the Florida Times-Union.
The bar has a “farewell affair to remember” Aug. 18, with the final night of operations Aug. 21.
It’s difficult to overstate what Volstead meant downtown. The speak-easy embodied a prohibition era aesthetic, with great drinks and plenty of space to mill.
However, the real utility of Volstead was its proximity to City Hall, as it became the go-to spot for off-the-record conversations between pols and savvy reporters, where the secrets spilled were every bit as delicious as the liquor swilled.
What Aaron Bean is up to in August
On Wednesday, Aug. 2, the Fernandina Beach Republican will speak to the Rotary Club of West Jacksonville for an overview of the 2017 Legislative Session. Event begins 12:30 p.m. at the Florida Yacht Club, 5210 Yacht Club Road in Jacksonville. Then, on Tuesday, Aug. 15, Sen. Bean will also offer another overview for the Rotary Club of San Jose’s meeting, beginning 6 p.m. at the San Jose Country Club, 7529 San Jose Boulevard in Jacksonville.
Save the date: Flagler County GOP election kickoff barbecue
Flagler County’s Republican Club kicks off the 2018 election season with an afternoon of fun, food and fellowship at the Princess place preserve Aug. 19. Special guest is Republican Party of Florida Chair Blaise Ingoglia, who will cut the ribbon on the season at 2 p.m. State Sen. Travis Hutson and Speaker-to-be Renner will be honored for sponsoring the Republican Club Youth Scholarships for 2017-18. Emceeing the event is retired Flagler County Clerk Gail Wadsworth. To order tickets, click here.
Adam Putnam, Renner featured at Florida Chamber veteran summit
Leaders from Florida’s military and defense industry, economic development experts, policymakers and the business community will be at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Military, Defense & Veterans Opportunities Summit Aug. 8 at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld, 6677 Sea Harbor Dr. in Orlando.
The event’s theme is examining challenges facing Florida veterans throughout the next 15-plus years and identify solutions.
Among the featured guests are state Rep. Renner, Agriculture Commissioner Putnam (as keynote) and retired Brig. Gen. Michael Fleming, who serves as Jacksonville University’s senior vice president of University Relations and Development. Fleming and Renner will also host a panel entitled “Making Connections: Eliminating Obstacles for Veteran Entrepreneurs.”
Intuition Ale Works sponsoring cart service for events
Jacksonville Business Journalreports that Intuition Ale Works is one of the sponsors of the passenger cart service EZEventRide, which transports physically impaired people and others who need the service to and from events at Veterans Memorial Arena and EverBank Field.
Founder Bill Guerrant launched EZEventRide in 2014 after noticing an elderly couple struggling to walk nearly a mile from there parking spots to the stadium. Guerrant began in June 2014 after acquiring some golf carts. The company’s 10 carts – which offer free rides – can take people from parking locations throughout the Jacksonville entertainment district, in between the stadium and places like the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Waterfront, the Omni Jacksonville Hotel, Intuition and Manifest Distillery and others.
JTA CEO honored with leadership award
Nathaniel Ford Sr., CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) was honored with the Thomas G. Neusom “Founders Award from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). This award is the highest honor bestowed by COMTO.
Ford accepted the award July 18 at the 46th National Meeting and Training Conference in Detroit, Michigan.
The Founders Award honors public and private transportation executives and policymakers responsible for the direction and operation of their agency and who, through their affiliation with COMTO, have made outstanding contributions toward the growth and development of people of color within the transportation industry and have given continued and outstanding service and leadership to the COMTO organization.
“I am honored and grateful to be recognized by COMTO with this prestigious award,” said Ford. “JTA is committed to workplace diversity and it is evident throughout our operation.”
Frontier Airlines adds flights from Jax to Denver, Cincinnati
Flights from Jacksonville International Airport are expanding as Denver-based Frontier Airlines, a low-cost carrier start nonstop flights from Jacksonville to Denver and Cincinnati starting spring 2018, reports First Coast News. Flights will be on Airbus A320 aircraft.
“We are proud to announce the nationwide expansion of our unique brand of Low Fares Done Right which will empower millions more people to afford to fly,” Barry Biffle, president and CEO for Frontier Airlines, said in a statement.