Jacksonville – Florida Politics

Jacksonville to get pennies on the dollar from Councilmember’s family biz bankruptcy deal

A saga that began with a 2011 business development deal for a BBQ sauce plant and saw one of the business principals elected to the Jacksonville City Council along the way descended into drama and non-performance.

An FBI raid and a subsequent series of legal actions and personal and corporate bankruptcy filings led to a reorg, and the city of Jacksonville poised to eventually get pennies on the dollar for the over $600,000 it fronted to the company.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jerry Funk issued a final decree Tuesday morning in the bankruptcy case of K.J.B. Specialties (Jerome Brown Barbecue and Wings), with a repayment plan for all creditors.

Last and least: unsecured creditors, such as the city of Jacksonville, which will get back less than $60,000 of the outstanding $380,000 loan back that it provided the company seven years ago to open an ill-fated sauce plant in economically troubled Northwest Jacksonville.

A $210,000 grant for job creation was unaddressed by the accord. Fifty-six jobs were intended to be created and sustained over five years, but no jobs fit the criteria.

Other creditors, such as banks and taxation authorities, will be made whole eventually.

Councilwoman Katrina Brown, who is no longer a listed officer with K.J.B. Specialities, is running for re-election against a crowded field of fellow Democrats.

As of March, she had yet to fundraise, putting her behind Tameka Gaines Holly ($16,000 on hand), Albert Wilcox ($6,500 on hand), and Diallo-Sekou Seabrooks (nearly $5,000 on hand).

Below: the complete list of obligations for the company.

Jacksonville Bold for 4.20.18 — Can’t knock the hustle

In Jacksonville, tales of the next year of elections have just begun.

In this edition: congressional fundraising. For those needing a guide to both contenders and pretenders, a look at the money (months before voters cast ballots) will tell that tale.

Down the page, our story on City Council fundraising. Some candidates who are not faring so well saw it, as indicated by the relative paucity of glad-handing for our Jacksonville correspondent by players not really in the game.

For those who decry the “horserace coverage” of politics — is it indeed not a race? Courting the donor class, pandering to “the rubes,” emotional appeals, gaming the outcome — they are all hallmarks of a competition.

And for the title of this week’s Bold, we borrowed (stole) from Jay-Z — and not just to ensure Lenny Curry reads it.

“Can’t knock the hustle” serves as a reminder to all of those working this cycle that, even as the physical days get longer, the time to decide your fate is closer to the end than the beginning.

The anxiety of influence

“It’s good to have all these relationships in D.C., but as Senator, you have more influence.”

The above quote, by far, was the most notable offered during Gov. Rick Scott’s tightly messaged “business roundtable” in Jacksonville. It also illustrated a unique dual message; that of the outsider who can play the inside game.

Rick Scott’s ‘influence’ line was the most interesting of the 45-minute event.

Scott reprised his critique of term limits, coupled with a vision of what he would do as Senator to redress constituent concerns.

Scott vowed, for example, that he would be positioned to help get JAXPORT’s dredge federally funded.

In response to a question about waterways, Scott vowed to talk to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who (depending on who you ask) may or may not have exempted Florida from offshore drilling.

Scott also vowed to meet with heads of other federal agencies.

Scott’s tacit pitch: being able to play the inside game from day one, while still using outsider rhetoric, such as he did on taxes.

Read more here.

$300K for the Sheriff

Rep. John Rutherford, the former Jacksonville Sheriff who is now representing Northeast Florida’s 4th Congressional District, cleared the $300,000 on-hand mark by the end of March.

John Rutherford has the only money tree in CD 4.

Rutherford had not been aggressively fundraising before the just-concluded quarter. Rutherford ended 2017 with $183,748 on hand.

Among Rutherford’s more interesting supporters: Jacksonville donor Peter Rummell, who has said he would only give money to candidates who backed an assault weapons ban. Rutherford never took that position.

Corporate donors include Clear Channel, Viacom, Walmart, and Rayonier.

Rutherford faces no credible primary opponent; however, the Democratic field in the deep-red district is still shaking out, even as none of them thus far enjoy any fundraising traction.

Read all about Monday’s Democratic candidate forum here.

Brown closes cash gap

In the Democratic primary for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, there appears to be a money race after all.

Per a news release from Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville Mayor enjoyed a 2:1 fundraising advantage in Q1 2018.

Can Alvin Brown eclipse Al Lawson? Money (so far) says yes.

And that means that Brown has pulled close to incumbent Rep. Al Lawson regarding cash on hand.

For the quarter, Brown brought in $167, 088.73; Lawson $83,866.34.

By the end of 2017, before Brown entered the race, Lawson had $100,000 cash-on-hand. Now Lawson has just under $160,000; Brown has a little over $127K.

Brown is “humbled by the widespread grassroots support for our people-powered campaign, which will allow us to connect with voters across the 5th District. Floridians have proved they are ready for new leadership as Washington politicians continue to care more about self-preservation than fighting for the people back home.”

Ward, Waltz self-finance to replace DeSantis in DC

What’s clear about the race to succeed Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District: There will be a lot of money spent to get the nomination.

Ponte Vedra businessman John Ward still leads with cash-on-hand in the seat that encompasses southern St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties; however, Fox News contributor Mike Waltz is close behind.

Mike Waltz is very much in the game in CD 6. (Image: Facebook)

As of the end of March, Ward had $709,340 on hand (with $555,000 of that from his own checkbook). Waltz, who loaned his own campaign $400,000, has $653,354 on hand.

On the Republican side, Ward and Waltz are demonstrating the most fundraising ability. Former state Rep. Fred Costello has $15,720 on hand. St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns has yet to report fundraising.

Two Democrats, meanwhile, also show a talent for fundraising.

Democrat Stephen Sevigny said Friday that his campaign brought in $250,000 in the first quarter. Sevigny’s total includes $50,000 in candidate loans. He finished the quarter with $227K on hand.

Nancy Soderberg, a former Ambassador to the United Nations under Bill Clinton, currently leads the primary field with $920,000 in total fundraising after reporting $375,000 raised for the quarter. With $595K on hand, she is keeping pace with the Republicans, without spending her own money on the campaign so far.

JAXBIZ picks Duggan for HD 15

On Tuesday, JAXBIZ (the political arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce) endorsed Wyman Duggan in House District 15.

JAXBIZ endorsed Wyman Duggan at a pivotal time, with challenges emerging and money drying up.

“Wyman is an experienced, conservative leader who can make an immediate impact for our community in Tallahassee,” JAXBIZ Chair Dane Grey said. “Wyman understands the importance of growing jobs for hardworking families and attracting investment in our community.”

Duggan faces two Republican opponents in the primary and a lull on the fundraising front. For the second straight month in March, he raised just over $2,000; he has just over $95,000 cash on hand.

Duggan, a land-use attorney with deep connections in Jacksonville, has amassed a phalanx of endorsements since entering the race to succeed Rep. Jay Fant, and the JAXBIZ endorsement confirms his position as the choice of Jacksonville’s political and business establishment.

Sports complex improvements coming

On Tuesday, the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee approved moving $1.945 million from the Sports Complex Capital Maintenance Fund to fund improvements at the Sports Complex.

Improvements are coming to the Sports Complex soon. (Image: Getty)

The bill is now ready for the full Council to vote on it next week.

The money was available, per a city representative, because of “excess debt service” funds from FY 17.

Among the projects to be funded: “Seating bowl repairs and widening of the front entrance plaza at the Arena, steel painting, lighting upgrades, bleacher repairs, upgrading of video control room equipment and concourse televisions, and turf equipment replacements at the baseball grounds, and replacing aging food service equipment, upgrading the phone system, seating bowl repairs, and building system upgrades at the stadium.”

The city has spent big money on the sports complex in recent years.

In recent years, Jacksonville taxpayers have authorized $88 million of city-funded capital improvements to the Jaguars’ stadium: $43 million for the world’s biggest scoreboard, and half of a $90 million buy-in that secured a new amphitheater, a covered practice field, and club seat improvements.

Council still hashing out cannabis conundrum

Ordinance 2018-75 would revise extant code relative to medical cannabis. However, a Jacksonville City Council committee can’t figure out a way forward, with a deferral on the bill again Monday

The code was formulated in response to “Charlotte’s Web” low-THC cannabis being the single legal strain, and after an extended period of debate, processing and dispensing were allowed in commercial districts, with cultivation permitted in agricultural regions.

Council’s mellow harshed again over controversial language in cannabis bill.

That debate was tortuous; so too is this one, with the second deferral of this legislation in Monday’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety Committee pushing back the bill two more weeks.

“This bill puts our code in compliance with Florida statutes,” said a representative from the Office of General Counsel. “The statute prohibits cultivation and processing facilities within 500 feet of a school” but allows a dispensary given a waiver within 500 feet.

However, given a wide range of concerns addressed this week in committee, it is clear that a public-notice meeting will be needed to refine bill language.

Curry draws challenger

Curry faces a challenge on the 2019 ballot, and it all stems from a beef over a boat show.

Former Atlantic Beach Commissioner Jimmy Hill, a Republican like Curry, took issue with a scheduling snafu over a 2017 boat show that led to him being edged out of promoting boat shows altogether, leading ultimately, he says, to Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Can Jimmy Hill be king? Or will Lenny Curry retain the crown?

Now Hill hopes to have the last laugh … and edge Curry out of the Mayor’s office next year.

Hill believes his group was edged out of the boat show because it used Metro Park and was “the last remaining obstacle to getting rid of Metro Park.”

“The Lenny Curry administration is wholly responsible,” Hill said, for the boat show issues.

And now the ultimate revenge: a challenge on the ballot.

Hill, who worked for Curry’s election, asserts that he “misjudged [Curry’s] character and willingness to do the right thing for people.

Moreover, the challenger says he’s not alone in his chagrin with the incumbent.

“There’s a groundswell of people disappointed in the Mayor,” Hill said. “Key players in his administration are steering him in the wrong direction.”

Read more here.

City Council fundraising update

Some noteworthy news and notes from March fundraising reports for Jacksonville City Council candidates.

The first candidate to hit $250,000 raised, Matt Carlucci, is suspending fundraising for his at-large race against Don Redman.

Leanna Cumber, pictured, looks to replace the likely-irreplaceable Lori Boyer on Council.

Also starting off extremely strong: LeAnna Cumber, who has raised over $170,000 for a district race against Democrat James Jacobs, who has under $500 on hand.

Not every race is seeing robust fundraising, however; For those wanting to get money out of politics, the District 10 race offers a unique illustration. Only one of the six candidates (Kevin Monroe) has more than $1,000 on hand.

Surprising that property or union interests aren’t floating a candidate, bankrolling him and her for reliable votes on issues that may come before the council. But there’s still time.

Read about all the races here.

New JEA CEO wants privatization ‘pause’

New JEA interim CEO Aaron Zahn took over this week after a board meeting saw a vote go his way over CFO Melissa Dykes.

How long does a ‘pause in discussion’ last? (Image: Action News Jax)

There are those close to the process who believe Dykes’ tenure will be short-lived in this role, with other opportunities opening for her elsewhere.

This was not a move many predicted before recent weeks and was presaged with a game of musical chairs, in which Zahn resigned his position to pursue the interim CEO position, one filled by Dykes for the prior week, after longtime JEA CEO Paul McElroy stepped down 10 days ago.

Dykes and Zahn both lobbied board members for the position. But members, appointed by Curry, voted for the Mayor’s man.

Zahn noted that he wanted a “pause” in privatization talks, though he would not say how long that pause needed to be. We got reactions to that from some leading members of the Jacksonville City Council.

Supplementary reading: New bill would give JEA Board control to City Council.

Neptune Beach gets $375K for storm upgrades

Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Cord Byrd this week presented a $375,000 check to Neptune Beach’s Mayor and City Council.

The money was part of an appropriation to bolster the beachfront city’s stormwater drainage system on Florida Boulevard. The Northeast Florida Republicans helped secure the money state budget during the 2018 Legislative Session.

Aaron Bean and Cord Byrd present a $375K check to the City of Neptune Beach.

“Once this project is complete, Neptune Beach and the Beaches community will be better prepared for the next storm and have safer access to Florida Boulevard during emergencies,” Bean said.

Byrd added that the project “will improve the Beaches stormwater system and ensure a safe evacuation route for residents during a natural disaster.”

Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown thanked the lawmakers for pushing for the funding and said it “will go a long way toward alleviating our drainage problems in our city and, most importantly, will restore safety to our evacuation route.”

Bean presents $975K to STEM advancement

On Monday, Bean presented a $975,000 check to Kathleen Schofield, executive director of STEM2 Hub; Gary Chartrand, chair of STEM2 Hub Corporate Board and a group of aspiring Northeast Florida STEM students.

During the most recent Session, Bean worked to secure funding for STEM2 Hub’s Northeast Florida 21st Century Workforce Development project, which increases the availability of STEM-related educational programs.

Aaron Bean presents $975K in state funding to the Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub.

STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — represent some of the fastest-growing, most in-demand career fields in today’s workforce.

“STEM education is vital to the future workforce of our state,” Bean said. “I envision a Florida where all children have the chance to learn these critical skills, so they can realize their truly unlimited potential. This funding moves us closer to fulfilling this vision and provides Northeast Florida’s students with the opportunities needed to compete and excel in the 21st Century.”

The STEM2 Hub project helps schools to continue offering 21st Century Skills Development programs to students in Northeast Florida, with a focus on robotics, coding and workforce-aligned after-school programs and high-quality math instruction. The goal of schools working with the STEM2 Hub is to increase the number of STEM-capable graduates.

“It is so important that we give all students the opportunity to grow competent in the skills of problem-solving and critical thinking,” Schofield said. “We must make students feel connected to community and business leaders, as well as to their schools, so that they see a pathway to their own success.”

More information about the STEM2 Hub is at stem2hub.org.

Rick Scott says only ‘career politicians’ are concerned with his blind trust

As the Senate campaign between challenger Rick Scott and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson rounds into shape, the Governor’s finances continue to be a talking point.

Florida Democrats have said the Republican Governor has offered “nothing but silence” regarding “his own secret account … and how he has become $46 million wealthier while he is in office.”

In Jacksonville for a Wednesday morning roundtable with local businesspeople, Scott broke that silence, but offered little in the way of disclosure.

“This is just career politicians that are … these are just attacks to not talk about the issues,” Scott said.

“I’ve been very transparent with regard to my net worth,” Scott said. “I’ve put my assets in a blind trust so I would not have any conflicts. So I don’t know actually what’s in the blind trust.”

Scott noted that he doesn’t take a salary as Governor.

“I sold the state planes,” Scott said, “and I pay most of the cost to fly around the state.”

“These are just attacks,” Scott added, “because Democrats don’t want to talk about the real issues.”

Jacksonville Chamber’s ‘JAXBIZ’ committee endorses Wyman Duggan in HD 15

On Tuesday, JAXBIZ (the political arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce) endorsed Wyman Duggan in House District 15.

“Wyman is an experienced, conservative leader who can make an immediate impact for our community in Tallahassee,” JAXBIZ Chair Dane Grey said. “Wyman understands the importance of growing jobs for hard-working families and attracting investment in our community.”

Duggan faces two Republican opponents in the primary and a lull on the fundraising front. For the second straight month in March, he raised just over $2,000; he has just over $95,000 cash on hand.

Duggan, a land-use attorney with deep connections in Jacksonville, has amassed a phalanx of endorsements since entering the race to succeed Rep. Jay Fant, and the JAXBIZ endorsement confirms his position as the choice of Jacksonville’s political and business establishment.

Jacksonville City Councilmen Danny BectonMatt SchellenbergGreg AndersonAaron BowmanScott WilsonDoyle CarterJim Love and Sam Newby are on board.

So are former Councilmen Jim Overton and Kevin Hyde. And Rep. John Rutherford, state Sens. Rob Bradley and Aaron Bean, state Rep. Jason Fischer, Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell, Duval Tax Collector Michael Corrigan also back Duggan.

Duggan, whose campaign is run by Mayor Lenny Curry‘s political advisor Tim Baker, is comfortably ahead of Republican opponents Mark Zeigler (less than $12,000 on hand) and Joseph Hogan (who has yet to report raising any money).

However, Democrat Tracye Polson, the sole Democrat running to replace the Attorney General hopeful, reports a combined March fundraising total of $30,821.00. She’s raised $174,103 between her campaign and political committee accounts, with $113,635 on hand.

Bankruptcy then candidacy for Jacksonville mayoral hopeful Jimmy Hill

Jimmy Hill, an Atlantic Beach Republican challenging incumbent Lenny Curry in the Jacksonville Mayor’s race, confirmed to Florida Politics on Monday that he and his wife had filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy just days before filing for mayor.

The Hills listed assets of $686,412 (including a $635,000 house) and liabilities of $519,251 in the Mar. 29 filing. Income of $5,400 monthly doesn’t match up with expenses of $8,700, per the filing, which showed checking balances of roughly $3,600.

The Hills have a mortgage of roughly $295,000, and $223,000+ of unsecured debts, including to 1010 XL, 904 Happy Hour, Gatehouse Media, and other vendors related to the North Florida Boat Show, which Hill asserts was run out of business by bad practices in City Hall.

“Their actions just destroyed us,” Hill said of his boat show that was capsized in 2017 after a dispute over event dates at Metro Park with the city proved fateful for the production continuing on. “We were targeted.”

Hill noted that, had his imbroglio with the city not happened, he and his wife would “probably just be doing boat shows.”

However, Hill’s experience “opened the door,” with people coming forth to tell their own tales of tangling with City Hall.

“Favoritism” among senior staff begets a “systemic problem” in the building, Hill said, with winners and losers being picked by the Mayor’s Office.

Hill rues backing Curry in 2015, saying “I’ve never been so wrong about someone in my life.”

Hill, in addition to running against the mayor, also says that litigation against the city is “probably pending.”

Also pending: Hill’s refiling of the bankruptcy petition, as he was found to have filed a deficient Chapter 13 plan to make creditors whole.

Boat show beef begets ballot-box challenge to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry will face a challenger on the 2019 ballot — and it all stems from a beef over a boat show.

Former Atlantic Beach Commissioner Jimmy Hill, a Republican like Curry, took issue with a scheduling snafu over a 2017 boat show that led to him being edged out of promoting boat shows altogether.

Now Hill hopes to have the last laugh … and edge Curry out of the Jacksonville Mayor’s Office

Hill believes his group was pushed out of the boat show because it used Metro Park, and was “the last remaining obstacle to getting rid of Metro Park.”

“The Lenny Curry administration is wholly responsible,” Hill said, for the boat show issues.

And now the ultimate revenge: a challenge on the ballot.

Hill, who worked for Curry’s election, asserts that he “misjudged [Curry’s] character and willingness to do the right thing for people.”

Moreover, the challenger says he’s not alone in his chagrin with the incumbent.

“There’s a groundswell of people disappointed in the Mayor,” Hill said. “Key players in his administration are steering him in the wrong direction.”

“I’m the exact right person at the exact right time to make the necessary corrections. People the last four months are saying we need something done. It’s come to my door,” Hill said.

Curry has banked $1.5 million for his campaign; Hill isn’t worried.

“This election will have nothing to do with money. It’s about the message and the facts,” Hill said. “Curry has shown exactly who he is by the JEA acquisition [SIC],” Hill said.

Moreover, other major issues give Hill pause, such as the District development deal and the “band-aid” that was the city’s 2016 pension reform package.

“Money isn’t going to hide those problems,” Hill predicted.

Hill sees his campaign as “really problematic” for Curry, and promises surprises along the way, including groups and individuals the campaign is working with.

Prior to Hill filing, Curry had one ballot opponent already: Democrat Doreszell Cohen, who has $150 cash on hand.

Jacksonville Bold for 4.13.18 — Infrastructure week

In campaigns, there is always a watershed moment when all the gauzy, aspirational rhetoric fades — like so many temporary tattoos — replaced by the hard realities of campaign finance and infrastructure.

For races on the 2018 ballot, we are there — even if some candidates haven’t figured it out.

If one is looking to win a primary in August, as many Democrats have to do this year locally, one might think that the campaign would be in high gear. The money would be in place. The team would be working.

We see that with some candidates (for example, who is working harder this cycle than Tracye Polson in her state House race?). With others, we don’t (consider Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown, who hasn’t done anything in his challenge to Sen. Audrey Gibson but buy campaign T-shirts).

The most prominent campaign event this week was the Governor’s rally Wednesday. Lots of incumbents and prospective candidates on hand; some should have taken notes.

In some quarters, People malign Rick Scott as a checkbook candidate. But he assembles the best team, has resources to message, and understands the discipline needed for such message.

He’s been working the same speech around the state, but he keeps refining it, getting more comfortable with the material. And, despite mourning a trusted aide, he has learned to reflect the affinity of the crowd. His smiles seem natural now.

And Bill Nelson is in for a fight.

As any incumbent can tell you: build the infrastructure before you need it. Because you will need it sooner than you think.

Scott Senate rollout

Gov. Scott rolled out his Senate campaign in the Jacksonville market Wednesday, with a stop at Ring Power on the Southside.

Rick Scott is already refining a credible stump speech, running with enthusiasm.

Scott’s political committee has sent out prepared remarks for each local event that have been the same as those sent out for the launch in Orlando Monday.

However, at least in Jacksonville, he deviated from the remarks, adding new details about retiring $9 billion in state debt during his tenure — a tacit allusion to the Congressional Budget Office predictions of increasing deficits over the next decade, subtly noting that Florida is not on that fiscal path under his watch.

Throughout his 10-minute speech, the Governor was upbeat, in “happy warrior” mode.

The local Democratic Party had called for protests; however, if there were protesters, they were not noticed by this reporter or other media on hand.

Scott drew a crowd of roughly 300, including numerous members of the Duval County Legislative Delegation and the Jacksonville City Council, as well as people who hope to serve in Tallahassee or City Hall.

In contrast to other events on tour, the Governor took questions. Included were answers about an elections complaint against the New Republican PAC and on Syria policy.

Soderberg rakes in more campaign donations

Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a former Ambassador to the United Nations during the Bill Clinton presidency, posted another impressive quarter of fundraising in her bid to succeed Republican Ron DeSantis in Congress.

Nancy Soderberg is running to win Ron DeSantis’ current seat.

Per a media release: Soderberg raised $375,000 in the first quarter of 2018. Soderberg raised $920,000 during her bid for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

The media release does not give an indication of what’s been spent this quarter; however, by the end of 2017, Soderberg raised $544,636, with $376,000 on hand.

This puts her ahead of other Democrats in the race. Stephen Sevigny has nearly $227,000 on hand; John Upchurch, just over $123,000.

Republicans running for the seat have yet to file fundraising reports or issue media releases.

The cash on hand leader as of the end of 2017 was Republican John Ward, a businessman living in Ponte Vedra, somewhat to the north of the district that runs from southern St. Johns to Volusia counties.

Ward, who loaned his campaign $500,000, had $644,000 on hand.

Brown, Lawson make moves in congressional primary clash

The Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, a cartographical anomaly that sprawls from downtown Jacksonville west to Tallahassee, saw some moves this week by both incumbent Al Lawson and challenger Alvin Brown.

Alvin Brown again reaches out to the right wing … odd strategy in Dem primary

Lawson’s campaign showed its first signs of engagement, with the hire of self-styled “hip-hop lobbyistPhillip Singleton as the campaign’s “senior adviser,” handling fundraising and outreach.

Singleton’s comments in the media release seem to suggest that Lawson’s efforts thus far in the campaign have been lacking.

“I am ready to hit-the-ground-running and re-energize our donor and voter base,” said Singleton.

Alvin Brown also is making moves, though it is difficult to tell if his latest will help in a Democratic primary.

Brown dined with right-wing talk radio host Ed Dean this week, a curious move … even with Dean hosting a straw poll this weekend on the Southside.

Dean’s listeners tend to be Tea Party/Trump Republicans, few of whom will vote in the Democratic primary in CD 5.

Brown, of course, is no stranger to outreach to the right wing — a triangulation strategy he used when running for Jacksonville Mayor.

In an ordinary Democratic primary, it would be easy to imagine a digital ad proclaiming Brown to be a tool of the right.

However, those with memories going back two years will recall Trump’s Florida co-chair Susie Wiles helping to pitch Lawson to Jacksonville media as he ran against Corrine Brown.

Gibson slams Scott, lauds ‘moderate’ Nelson

Senate Minority Leader-Designate Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, excoriated Scott upon his U.S. Senate campaign launch Monday.

Will voters agree with Sen. Audrey Gibson that Bill Nelson is a better deal maker than Rick Scott?

“Rick Scott cannot erase seven years of leaving behind my constituents and others throughout this state and now try to take his same show to Washington. His jobs incentive programs have not provided real jobs to the average Floridian because he counts failed potential job creation as a Florida job,” Gibson said.

Scott’s relationship with President Donald Trump, Gibson asserted, is something voters should “definitely” consider, given Trump’s lack of “decorum” and “predictability.”

Besides, Gibson joked, Trump may not be President for very much longer.

As well, Gibson doubted Scott’s ability to be a “consensus builder,” which “moderate” Nelson has been for years.

“He may not necessarily characterize himself that way,” Gibson said of Nelson as a moderate, but lauded his ability to “build a bridge” and bring “balance to his position as a Senator.”

Additionally, Scott is as much a “career politician” as Nelson, Gibson said, given that he’s running for one office from another.

Could Dem take Fant House seat?

The race to replace Rep. Jay Fant in Jacksonville’s House District 15 continues, and March showed evidence of more traction from Democrat Polson.

For one thing, she’s up nine points in a poll her campaign commissioned — a major shock when one considers that for years no Democrat even bothered to run in the traditional GOP sinecure.

Blue wave in Jay Fant’s old seat? Time will tell, but the Trayce Polson campaign keeps raising money.

Polson, the sole Democrat running to replace the Attorney General hopeful, reports a combined March fundraising total of $30,821.00. She’s raised $174,103 between her campaign and political committee accounts, with $113,635 on hand.

“We have been knocking on doors since Veterans Day and one thing is very clear,” said Polson. “Voters are looking for a new leader to send to Tallahassee.”

To win that race in November, Polson will have to beat a Republican; currently, three are vying for the nomination.

In HD 15, Jacksonville land use attorney Wyman Duggan now faces two Republican opponents in the primary and trouble on the fundraising front. For the second straight month, he raised just over $2,000; he has just over $95,000 cash on hand.

Duggan leads Republicans Mark Zeigler and Joseph Hogan in fundraising.

Other races were less interesting, but you can read more about them here.

Brosche goes in on Curry

More harsh words between Jacksonville’s City Council President and Mayor.

Lenny Curry went on TV and put Anna Brosche on blast. Brosche responded in kind.

More drama on the fourth floor of City Hall this week. Like every week these days.

“As for his messaging against me, I am, quite frankly, surprised to be an object of his constant attention, one requiring a messaging campaign. While he is focused on the dynamic of our unhealthy relationship, I am going to continue my efforts to serve the people of Jacksonville, and keep asking questions to make sure everything adds up for the people,” Brosche added.

Of course, the central battleground for this conflict, at this point, is the special committee to explore the potential sale of Jacksonville’s utility, JEA.

After two consecutive Thursdays in which he took tough questions from that committee, JEA CEO Paul McElroy decided his time was up and stepped down from the highest paying public position in the city.

For Brosche, this decision adds to the current “uncertainty” surrounding the utility.

“Uncertainty has been a frequent term used in the process of evaluating a potential sale of JEA; Paul’s departure brings no exception,” she added.

Read More Here.

Speaking of JEA … a new ad

“Tell Lenny JEA is not for sale”: the latest digital ad from Florida Committee for Infrastructure Investment.

The spot, which will have a $5000+ ad buy, will appear starting Monday on digital channels and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, per the news release.

Can unions keep up with Lenny Curry in the ad game?

The spot weaves together a narrative from local media accounts, charging Curry with taking actions to move forward with a sale of Jacksonville’s public utility despite a declared agnosticism to the topic beyond a “mature conversation” about the value of the “asset.”

“Everyone connected with the sale is also closely connected to the mayor,” asserts the copy. “According to a city auditor, Curry’s administration has been working behind your back preparing for a sale.”

A local union head expressed the rationale for the spot.

“While Lenny Curry continues to say that he is not a proponent of selling JEA, his actions are not matching his words. Our ad simply connects the dots based on evidence provided by local media. We do hope that the Mayor will listen to the will of the people and stop this push to sell JEA,” asserts D. Jason Baber, vice president of the Professional Employees Association.

“While we understand it takes a vote of council to actually sell JEA, we are asking that the Mayor as the leader of this city publicly end what we believe he started. We are asking that he publicly come out and say he is against the sale of JEA,” Baber adds. “If he is unwilling to do this, we know he and any candidate he supports wishes to sell JEA against the will of the people.”

Local unions released a statement opposing the exploration of a sale of the utility last week; this week, they continue pushing the narrative.

It remains to be seen if this will ultimately affect Curry’s re-election bid, however. The Mayor faces no credible opposition and raised $1.5 million in campaign funds in March, his first month as a filed candidate.

Sheriff raises $400K for re-election

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams is back to fundraising in earnest for his re-election bid, and both committee and hard money coffers are healthy after a strong March.

Tom Petway is one of Sheriff Mike Williams’ big donors.

Williams brought in $27,500 off 43 contributions to his campaign account, his most active month since launching last year.

He has raised $179,450 and has over $175,000 on hand.

His political committee, A Safe Jacksonville, brought in $38,000 in March. The committee has $232,000 on hand.

All donations to the committee came either from the family of Tom Petway, the former JEA Board member who kicked off the latest debate regarding privatizing the utility, or the Sorensen family of Firehouse Subs fame.

Williams’ opponent, Democrat Tony Cummings, raised no money for the second straight month, and has just over $200 banked.

District double-think?

Some interesting quotes in the Florida Times-Union regarding The District project.

Politicians will fall in line behind this development. What choice do they have?

The Peter Rummell development on Jacksonville Southside could result in $56 million of tax breaks, and $25 million of city infrastructure investment.

Yet some raise questions about the concept, currently being pushed hard by Councilwoman Lori Boyer.

Matt Schellenberg, who has said the project should have been put out for rebid years ago after the first of many stalls, questioned the wisdom of the investment.

“I would say if the city has that much money floating around, there are other areas in Jacksonville for that money,” the Mandarin Republican says.

This project would not be constructed for a few years, which leads to another question … one of timing, posed by Councilman Bill Gulliford.

“I don’t know that I would want to invest my money in it because we’re looking at a cyclical economy that’s at the top of the cycle right now.”

Indeed, what will things look like in three years?

Regardless, the City Council will make the call. To the surprise of no one, the Downtown Investment Authority approved the deal this week.

Delaney joins Rogers Towers/Fiorentino Group initiative

The next move for former Jacksonville Mayor and University of North Florida President John Delaney was revealed Wednesday via media release. He will work as part of a strategic alliance between Rogers Towers and the Fiorentino Group.

John Delaney’s next move is into the influence sphere.

The alliance, formed five years ago, includes collaboration on business and government affairs issues; business counsel; higher education issues; complex environmental matters and a variety of other government affairs needs at the local, state and federal levels.

Delaney is singularly positioned to help in these matters.

“John’s professional career has been one of the ‘most unique’ and diverse of almost anyone I know, and he brings to our clients’ needs a special perspective that will be of great value as they deal with legal issues as well as the ever-changing landscape of both the political world and government affairs arena,” said Fred Franklin, Rogers Towers managing director.

“John has been a part of some of Jacksonville’s most successful public policy initiatives,” said Marty Fiorentino, president of The Fiorentino Group. “His decades of experience in local, state and federal politics and tenure as president of one of Florida’s leading educational institutions has involved him in many complex issues where his leadership has had a real and positive impact. His addition to our team will provide exceptional added-value services as we develop winning strategies for our clients to influence public policy.”

“As I made my decision to retire from UNF, I looked for a new chapter to open in my career that offered me the chance to bring together the skills and experiences I have harnessed since starting out as a young lawyer working for former Mayor Ed Austin, when he served our community as State Attorney,” said Delaney.

“Having known Marty and Fred both personally and professionally over the years, I was aware of the great work their firms were doing. We collectively started a conversation that led to this decision. I look forward to working with the two of them and their teams to represent clients in a variety of areas both here in Northeast Florida and around the state and nation,” Delaney added.

Overton makes a political comeback

Jacksonville political veteran Jim Overton became the first of what could be many candidates for Duval County Tax Collector.

Overton, who filed this week, is no stranger to Duval County voters.

A familiar face seeks a new office.

With Tillie Fowler‘s blessing, he ran to serve her unexpired term on City Council in 1992, serving two full terms after that. Overton subsequently served three terms as Duval County Property Appraiser.

Overton tells us that current tax collector Michael Corrigan, who is under consideration to be CEO of Visit Jacksonville, encouraged him to run.

Corrigan and Overton are friends outside of the political sphere, and Overton believes that Corrigan has done a “good job” in the role, and, if elected, he will keep the office on an “even keel” for the next couple of years.

Overton notes that the tax collector’s office is a “bigger shop” than the property appraisers, but otherwise believes it’s an “easy fit.”

Overton already knows many staff members in the office he seeks, and some encouraged him to run.

Overton’s entry in the race will likely force certain termed-out members of the Jacksonville City Council who have been eyeballing a run at the office to make moves or cut bait.

Council candidate Carlucci clears $250K raised

Jacksonville political veteran Matt Carlucci, a Republican running for City Council in at-large Group 4, became the first candidate this cycle to clear $250,000 raised.

And, audaciously, he is taking a break from fundraising … having hit his campaign budget.

Matt Carlucci (center) continues to bank campaign funds.

Carlucci, who seeks to return to Jacksonville’s legislative body, drew from a diverse group of contributors again in March, as he brought in over $29,000.

Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, former City Council President Kevin Hyde, and former Council colleague Dick Kravitz, gave to Carlucci, as did Democrats, such as School Board member Warren Jones and City Council candidate Sunny Gettinger.

Corporate interests, such as the Haskell Company and J.B. Coxwell Contracting, likewise featured on the contribution list.

The $29,150 raised by Carlucci is his most significant single month haul since July 2017, and comes after another former councilman, Don Redman, became the second candidate in the race.

Boylan makes up ground in Council race

Two Republicans — former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan and Chamber candidate Rose Conry — are squaring off to replace termed-out Matt Schellenberg in Jacksonville City Council District 6.

Conry, while still the front-runner regarding money both raised and on-hand, lost some ground to Boylan in March.

WJCT Board of Trustees Chair Sandra Cook and WJCT President and CEO Michael Boylan.

Boylan raised $11,400, in his second straight month over five figures in fundraising. As evidence of a genuinely divided donor class in this race, such Jacksonville heavyweights as former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton’s Gate Petroleum, Preston Haskell and Jaguars/FPL lobbyist Paul Harden all ponied up for Boylan.

Conry’s operation is being run by Curry’s political adviser, Tim Baker; however, her $2,275 haul was the weakest of her six months as an active candidate. Among the donors to Conry in March: Bold City Strategic Partners and John Baker.

Despite the reversal in fortunes in March, Conry still holds leads in total money raised ($69,635 to $41,875) and cash on hand (approximately $63,400 to roughly $31,400).

Diamond banks $8K more

For those who might want to challenge Republican Rory Diamond as he runs to succeed termed-out Bill Gulliford on the Jacksonville City Council, it’s getting late.

Rory Diamond keeps banking campaign money. Will anyone challenge him?

Diamond, whose campaign is being handled by Curry’s political adviser Tim Baker, banked another respectable month of fundraising in March, raising $8,350. He now has raised $119,000, with over $113,000 on hand.

Among the names on Diamond’s latest report: Jacksonville investor Ashton Hudson, and University of North Florida Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Chris Warren.

Diamond has already outraised Gulliford in each of his runs. Gulliford, unopposed in his 2015 re-election bid, raised $95,000.

In 2011, when Gulliford initially won the office, he raised just over $47,000 (though he defeated Danny Becton, who raised $115,000).

JEA straw vote on November ballot

Two bills of note passed by the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday evening.

____

Straw ballot for JEA sale: 2018-141 will prime a straw ballot referendum for November to test the voters’ mood on a JEA sale.

The measure, sponsored by Garrett Dennis and John Crescimbeni (two skeptics of the need to sell), would, in theory, serve as a corrective to an impending sales pitch to sell from many directions.

Garrett Dennis and John Crescimbeni combined to push through the JEA sale straw ballot vote.

Crescimbeni noted in committee that the straw ballot is nonbinding and merely gives direction on whether to “participate in that process … weigh in and tell us they’re interested, or they’re not interested.”

A rumor the bill would be pulled from Consent ultimately proved unfounded.

____

Board reform: 2018-165, also sponsored by Dennis, will bar an active member of a board from applying for a paid position with the organization controlled by the board.

This bill was drafted after Joe Peppers, a member of the Kids Hope Alliance board who has since stepped down, made a successful play for that organization’s CEO position.

Dennis, one of the council’s most strident opponents of the reforms that brought KHA into being as a replacement for the Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey, saw Peppers as unqualified to be CEO and as someone who is parlaying relationships with the board and Curry’s team into a high-paying job.

Dennis said the bill would foster “transparency and fairness.”

Leading pot lawyers expand to Jacksonville

Bold City has a new pot law firm, which will practice out of the Riverside shopping center.

Denver-based Vicente Sederberg LLC, described as “one of the nation’s leading marijuana law firms,” is opening a Jacksonville office — serving the largest city in Florida’s burgeoning medical marijuana markets.

Vicente Sederberg partner Bryan Vicente and Jacksonville office head Sally Kent Peebles.

The extension of Vicente Sederberg — which claims to have “guided” one of the state’s five original medical marijuana licensees — is the latest development in the growing legal community for the marijuana industry.

Sally Kent Peebles will head the Jacksonville office, according to a news release.

Several lawsuits are expected after Tallahassee Judge Karen Gievers ruled that Tampa strip club entrepreneur Joe Redner can grow his own pot to treat his lung cancer.

The firm is also sponsoring the “National Cannabis Industry Association’s Quarterly Cannabis Caucus” in Tampa next week, as well as taking part in North East Florida NORML’s 420 on the Beach event in Jacksonville Beach set for (you guessed it) April 20.

T-U praises Ford’s ‘dynamic change’ at JTA

Nat Ford recently celebrated five years as CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.

“These have been the most enjoyable five years of my career,” Ford told the Florida Times-Union.

The Florida Times-Union lavishes praise on Nathaniel Ford Sr., CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA). Photo: James Crichlow/Jacksonville Business Journal.

“And they have been five of the best years in JTA’s history, too,” the editorial board praises in a new op-ed. “In short, JTA has become a more modern, more responsive and more relevant transit system.”

Since taking over JTA, Ford:

— Completely overhauled JTA’s antiquated route system, increasing the on-time rate for buses to 80 percent.

— Launched the first two lines of the premium First Coast Flyer traveling into the Northside and Southside with fewer stops; a third Flyer to the Beaches will start later this year.

— “Skillfully united the community’s stakeholders” to support revamping the Skyway, transforming the old automated aerial structure into a roadway with a ramp system that can accommodate driverless vehicles.

— Installed a test track to test driverless vehicles.

— Broke ground on the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center in the LaVilla neighborhood.

— Spearheaded JTA takeover of the St. Johns Ferry, with substantial infrastructure improvements. “The ferry’s ridership numbers are now booming, and it has shed its reputation for being woefully underutilized.”

“We’ve built up a reputation that has transcended Jacksonville,” Ford told the Editorial Board. “At the state and federal level, there is a lot of confidence in our agency.”

Greyhound ready for big move

Jacksonville’s Greyhound Intercity Bus Terminal is ready to make the big move from its longtime home at 10 N. Pearl St. to a new location about seven blocks west near the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s new hub will connect national, regional and city bus service, as well as the Skyway and nearby Interstate 95.

As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, the Greyhound terminal at 1111 W. Forsyth St. is the first phase of a $57.3 million JTA Regional Transportation Center project, funded by a combination of federal, state and local money.

To see video of the new facility, click on the image below:

Andy Rodgers, JTA project administrator, told the Business Journal the 9,660-square-foot facility was both on budget and schedule after about a year of construction.

The same food vendors as the current Greyhound station will operate the restaurant area.

JTA owns the building, and Rogers said it will lease it to Greyhound Lines Inc., which will move in April 17. The facility also will handle Megabus and RedCoach bus services.

UNF executes lease in historic downtown Jacksonville building

The University of North Florida is leasing the fourth and fifth floors in the historic Barnett National Bank Building in Downtown Jacksonville

The Coggin College of Business satellite campus will occupy about 16,000 square feet.

The UNF Coggin College of Business satellite campus will occupy about 16,000 square feet in the historic Barnett National Bank Building in Downtown Jacksonville.

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, the Barnett Building is under restoration as the first phase of a $100 million “adaptive reuse program” through a partnership of SouthEast Development Group LLC and The Molasky Group of Companies.

Rehabilitation will include a complete historic preservation of the building as well as the Laura Street Trio, a structured parking facility on the adjacent city lot at 28 W. Forsyth St.

Classrooms and faculty support facilities can accommodate as many as 200 students and a new Entrepreneurial Center to develop and support new businesses. UNF interns will earn credits through the center, working with entrepreneurs in a business incubator program.

“Most cities that have thriving entrepreneurship ecosystems usually have a university involved as part of that,” Mark Dawkins, dean of the UNF Coggin College of Business, told the Business Journal.

The UNF Coggin College of Business has four departments offering eight majors: accounting, economics, finance, financial planning, international business, management, marketing, and transportation and logistics.

“UNF wants the center to benefit not only students but the Jacksonville community as a whole,” Dawkins added.

Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon to speak in Jacksonville this week

Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon will speak in Jacksonville Monday and Tuesday, under the auspices of the World Affairs Council.

Calderon’s Monday 6:45 pm presentation, preceded by a 6:00 pm cocktail reception at Haskell, will be an exclusive address for World Affairs Council donors, on the theme of  “What Does Mexico Think?.”

Tuesday evening sees Calderon at the University of North Florida’s Adam Herbert University Center for a 7:00 pm speech, entitled  “A Presidential Look at Latin America and Mexico’s Perspective on Hemispheric and Bilateral Relations.”

Calderon has been a fierce critic of President Donald Trump, ensuring that his remarks will be quite lively.

While Trump was running for office, Calderon said that Trump’s “racist” remarks regarding illegal immigrants from Latin America were reminiscent of Adolf Hitler.

Calderon also called President Trump’s proposed border wall “stupid.”

Jacksonville Bold for 4.6.18 — Shiv season

In this week’s Bold, a recurring motif … pitched political speech.

From a senator saying the president could kick off the next Great Depression, to a gubernatorial campaign telling an opponent is DOA, the knives were out.

Shivs went toward Jacksonville’s mayor for exploring the value of JEA. And toward a chair of a local party … for her committeeman husband using a phrase at a party dinner that many on hand saw as objectionable.

Don’t worry, there were shivs for him as well.

Almost five months before primaries, and nearly a year before the first city elections, Northeast Florida politics are like a Ginsu ad.

The knives are out. And Jacksonville Bold is the whetstone.

Nelson: Metal tariffs = Smoot-Hawley Act

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson met with Anheuser-Busch executives in Jacksonville Monday to address business concerns about the Trump administration’s plan for tariffs on foreign products.

Meanwhile, Spuds MacKenzie remains silent on the issue of tariffs.

Beer execs were concerned that an imposed 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum would cost them millions of dollars and slow down investment in growing their business.

For Nelson, the tariffs signal a more significant issue.

“What it portends,” said Nelson, “is the starting of a trade war.”

“We get into a trade war, and the prices of a lot of consumer goods we buy from overseas are going to rocket up,” Nelson said. “A trade war ultimately runs into a recession, which was part of the reason for going into the Depression back in the 1930s.”

Nelson noted the Smoot-Hawley Act, which raised 900 import duties all at once, ultimately was what “plunged us into a Depression.”

“This could be the beginning,” Nelson said, saying 9 million people have jobs that will be affected by this imposition of aluminum and steel tariffs.

WaPo wallops Wiles

The Washington Post delivered a hit on inexperienced political appointees in the Donald Trump White House. Caroline Wiles got fragged.

Brutal hit on Caroline Wiles from The Washington Post.

The Post reminded readers that Wiles “was one of six White House staffers dismissed for failing FBI background checks” then was “made a special assistant to the president, a post that typically pays $115,000.”

Susie Wiles, the mother of Caroline, ran Trump’s Florida campaign as it got momentum. That, asserts the Post, is why she was hired.

“The younger Wiles has an unusual background for a senior White House official. On a résumé she submitted to the state of Florida, she said she had completed coursework at Flagler College … On her LinkedIn page, she simply lists Flagler under education. A Flagler spokesman said she never finished her degree,” the report says.

Another shot of nepotism followed: “Wiles has had a string of political jobs, including work at her mother’s lobbying firm and as a campaign aide for candidates her mother advised, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott  and Trump.”

And then, the rap sheet: “Over the years, she has had multiple encounters with police. In 2005, she had her driver’s license suspended for driving while intoxicated … In 2007, she was arrested for driving while intoxicated and arrested for passing a ‘worthless check.’ She was found guilty of a misdemeanor for driving under the influence. The charge related to the bad check was dropped in a plea agreement.”

Go figure; she didn’t sit for an interview for this piece.

Defense lawyers: Brown jobbed out of fair trial

Per First Coast News“The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is asking for a new trial for Corrine Brown after she was convicted on multiple counts of fraud and corruption and sentenced to five years in federal prison.”

Corrine Brown’s latest appeal enjoyed a tail-wind this week via an amicus brief.

At issue: the dismissal of a juror who claimed to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Brown and her defense have consistently contended that juror was dismissed in error and this group agrees, saying that “seeking guidance from God does not amount to jury misconduct and is not a basis to remove a juror who is otherwise qualified to serve.”

Brown’s attorney filed a 64-page brief last week in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing the Jacksonville Democrat’s conviction should be tossed out because the juror was improperly dismissed from the case due to his religious statements.

“The record in this case supports only one conclusion: that this juror was basing his verdict on his view of the sufficiency of the evidence, after prayerful consideration and as he saw it, in his mind, guidance from the Holy Spirit,” Brown’s attorney, William Mallory Kent, wrote in the brief.

Big Mo for DeSantis

An internal memo from the Ron DeSantis campaign for governor made the rounds this week. And he may be winning the nomination.

The memo notes that DeSantis is winning with little effort against an “establishment candidate … who has spent more than $6 million … and has been running quietly for eight years.”

Ron DeSantis’ campaign says it is ‘winning’ the race with Adam Putnam.

DeSantis has the best name ID, per internal polling, along with strong favorables and the lead in a two-way race against Adam Putnam and a three-way race with a “potential third challenger.”

Also, Trump Twitter came up bigly: “The president’s job approval is strong, and so is his endorsement.”

DeSantis also has good oppo against Putnam’s pre-Tea Party voting record in Congress, and wins the “blind bio” test, per his polling, 55 to 29 percent.

Payne draws challenger in HD 19

A Starke Democrat entered the race for North Central Florida’s House District 19, where they will take on incumbent Republican Bobby Payne, as well as Libertarian Ryan Ramsey.

(Paul) Still waters run deep, but the Dem says Black Creek project is a boondoggle.

Paul Still, an elected Supervisor for the Bradford County Soil and Water Conservation Board, was motivated to run by a water issue Payne supported that he sees as a “boondoggle.”

The issue at hand is the $42 million Black Creek Water Resource Development Project.

While Still won’t face primary opposition, the struggle is real in deep red HD 19 for the former chair of the Bradford County Democrats, as the party is not well-organized throughout much of the district.

Duval DEC committeeman out over ‘colored people’ comment

Lisa King‘s tenure chairing the Democratic Party of Duval County has been marred by the aftermath of her husband, state committeeman John Parker, committing the gaffe of using the term “colored people” during a dinner in January.

John Parker resigns, but will Lisa King hold on to the Dems’ gavel?

In the last week, Parker and King have dealt with some adverse press, related to an ongoing outcry both within and outside the party about her husband, with the offensive comments framed as a cause for both Parker and King to step down.

In a statement Monday, King said she had advised Parker to resign, but he told Florida Politics he “absolutely would not” last week. (King got backup Tuesday from party secretary Daniel Henry).

King notes that she has “told John from the beginning that the most appropriate course of action for him was to resign. Although we disagree on this action, our members are committed to respecting the process to resolve this issue.”

Meanwhile, the chair of the Duval GOP finally, a week after this controversy blew up, issued a call for King and Parker to resign.

On Wednesday, Parker acquiesced, resigning both leadership positions.

“Today, I accepted the resignation of John Parker as state committeeman and DNC member,” King said in a statement. “I do this with the certainty that it is the right thing for our party. Although he has dedicated over 35 years of service, his statements and actions necessitated his departure.”

Newby, Holland want four more years

Monday saw two incumbent Jacksonville politicians file for re-election.

Sam Newby won a close race in 2015 on a shoestring budget. Expect him to have more help this time.

At-large Group 5 Republican Sam Newby filed for re-election, as did Republican Property Appraiser Jerry Holland.

Newby, who won a narrow race against Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman in 2015, thus far faces no ballot opposition.

Holland, who was a popular Supervisor of Elections for two terms, faced no ballot opposition in 2015 but will face a Democrat next March.

Kurt Kraft has just over $600 on hand. To put that number in context, Holland raised over $154,000 in his unopposed run in 2015.

Committee slams Curry on radio

A political committee (Florida Committee for Infrastructure Investment) designed to stop the exploration of selling Jacksonville’s utility in its tracks rolled out its first radio ad in a mass email to media.

The 30-second spot, which employs a child’s voice, includes a plaintive, heart-tugging script.

To hear the video, click the image below:

“Mommy and daddy, they’re saying that Lenny Curry is trying to sell JEA,” says the youth in the spot, a child who is remarkably hip to the mechanics of municipal utilities for his age.

“Don’t let him sell JEA,” the youngster continues. “Don’t let him sell our future.”

The call to action: to call 630-CITY and tell Curry not to sell JEA.

This particular political committee has ties to one of Curry’s chief political rivals. Its registered agent and treasurer, Heather Pullen, has connections to Lisa King, the chair of the Duval Democrats.

“Baseless attacks and lies from a political committee affiliated with and supportive of Democrat Lisa King are not how we will protect the value of taxpayer assets at JEA. The mayor remains committed to ensuring that facts inform all future plans for our utility, and that those plans respect taxpayers and the promises made to JEA employees,” said Brian Hughes, Curry’s chief of staff.

Meanwhile, Council President Anna Brosche wants more disclosure from the city finance department on JEA. CFO Mike Weinstein stonewalled the Jacksonville City Council requests for financial information, saying in an email last week: “They’re on their own.”

There is, however, one positive JEA augury for the Mayor’s Office. Curry met with linemen Tuesday; per WJXT, it went well.

Hughes noted that the mayor’s “meeting with JEA lineman this morning was part of his continued commitment to having conversations about the future of JEA with all stakeholders. The meeting went well offering him the opportunity to hear feedback and information from the people who put their lives on the line, not only in emergencies, but every day to provide service to the citizens of Jacksonville.”

Council bills teed up

Straw ballot for JEA sale: This bill had some controversy before unanimous passage in Finance Tuesday morning.

The vote would be in November.

2018-141 would set a straw ballot referendum on the November ballot to test the voters’ mood on a JEA sale.

The measure, sponsored by Garrett Dennis and John Crescimbeni (two skeptics of the need to sell), would, in theory, serve as a corrective to an impending sales pitch to sell from many directions.

Crescimbeni pitched the bill to Rules, noting that the straw ballot is nonbinding and merely gives direction on whether to “participate in that process … weigh in and tell us they’re interested, or they’re not interested.”

The bill cleared Rules without a single no vote.

____

Board reform2018-65, also sponsored by Dennis, would bar a member of a board from applying for a paid position with the organization said board controls while serving on that board.

This bill was drafted after Joe Peppers, a member of the Kids Hope Alliance board who has since stepped down, made a play for that organization’s CEO position.

Dennis, one of Council’s most strident opponents of the reforms that brought KHA into being as a replacement for the Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey, sees Peppers as a) unqualified to be CEO and b) parlaying relationships with the board and Mayor Lenny Curry‘s team into a high-paying job.

Dennis said the bill would foster “transparency and fairness.”

Gaffney lawsuit rolls on

A whistleblower action involving Community Rehabilitation Center, the nonprofit of Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, continues to be hashed out in the 4th Judicial Circuit Court; it is now a discrimination suit.

Reggie Gaffney gaffe: Where are the documents, plaintiff lawyer wonders.

Former CRC employee Darlene Peoples contended in a late-May whistleblower lawsuit in Florida’s 4th Circuit that she was “unlawfully terminated” by the nonprofit … after she was allegedly exposed to risk from HIV-positive clients without proper training and licensure. [Complaint against CRC]

Peoples worked for CRC from 2013 to Sept. 2016. In June 2016, Peoples was reassigned to be a “mental health counselor” from her previous position, “substance abuse counselor,” in a move her original filing describes as “ill-advised.” She claimed training deficiencies were rampant in her preparation to deal with HIV positive clients, and when she attempted to get redress (including from CEO Gaffney), she was fired.

The latest motion from Peoples, a “motion to compel,” came Mar. 22. At issue: an alleged inability to comply promptly with plaintiff requests for discovery regarding interrogatories and documents (emails).

Read more here.

Mallot out

From the JAX Chamber: “Jerry Mallot announced today that he will retire from his roles as President of JAXUSA Partnership and Executive Vice President of JAX Chamber. Mallot’s retirement is effective Sept. 1.”

“This is truly the best city and region in the country to live and to do business — and that certainly helps when you’re bringing top companies to the region,” Mallot, who has been with the Chamber since 1994, said.

Jerry Mallot retiring from JAX Chamber Sept. 1.

Mallot helped to broker deals with Fidelity, Deutsche Bank and Amazon, per the Chamber. Those were three big gets.

“The investment he’s helped attract to our city is remarkable,” said JAX Chamber Chair John Peyton, who served as Jacksonville’s mayor from 2003-11 and worked with Mallot on several high-profile projects. “Jerry is so incredibly skilled at finding ways to get a deal done; it’s been a privilege to work with him over the years.”

“It’s amazing to look around at different projects and see how far we’ve come,” Mallot said. “We have so much momentum here, and I look forward to seeing it continue.”

Nassau’s Lincoln Day dinner sells out

Nassau County Republican Executive Committee (REC) announced its 2018 Lincoln Day Dinner has reached capacity with 116 tickets distributed, a first for the annual event.

The 2018 Lincoln Day Dinner is among the various Republican fundraising events to honor Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth U.S. president and first from the Republican Party. The Nassau County event was held Thursday at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island beginning with a cocktail hour and silent auction.

Keynoting the Lincoln Day dinner was Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis; featured guests includedCongressman John Rutherford, state Sens. Aaron Bean and Denise Grimsley, state Reps. Cord Byrd and Matt Caldwell, as well as various local leaders and candidates.

“Although we are still days away from hosting the event, the revenue and enthusiasm for this banquet have exceeded all expectations,” Nassau REC Chair Justin Taylor said. “In fact, we had to add seats to accommodate demand. We are seeing about a 50 percent participation increase from last year’s Lincoln Day, and I think that is a direct reflection of our party’s enthusiasm leading into this year’s election cycle.”

Marco Rubio pitches business tax cuts in Jacksonville, as federal deficits spike

Sen. Marco Rubio picked a safe market Thursday (Jacksonville) to message on a topic expected to resonate well with the area’s media contingent (the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act).

However, even in what seemed to be invulnerable economic messaging at a business expanding from 6,500 to 47,000 square feet and adding 100 jobs in the next five years because of tax cuts, narrative pitfalls abounded.

Despite these tax cuts, the federal government continues to spend money the American taxpayer doesn’t have. The latest $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill is funded via deficit spending (almost a quarter of a trillion dollars in February), and a concerted policy to weaken the dollar via issuance of short-term debt.

In this context, it was worth asking Rubio if the price of the tax cuts (future obligations and a currency being divested of spending power) was worth it given the increasing spread between revenue and spending.

“I think the rate of spending needs to be controlled,” Rubio said. “Ultimately the thing that drives long-term debt is the structure of very important programs that I support, Medicare and Social Security. I want to save those programs. They need to be reformed for future generations.”

“I would add that the best way to generate more revenue for government is not through more taxes, but more taxpayers. You’re going to have more taxpayers, for the local government, the state government, and the federal government because they’re hiring people, they’re creating work, they’re creating jobs,” Rubio said.

“When a business is able to keep more of the money that they are earning,” Rubio added, “they’re able to reinvest it. That reinvestment creates jobs, not just in that business but in all the businesses that support them. Those jobs become taxpayers.”

“We have to grow the economy,” Rubio said, “but we have to deal long-term with Social Security and Medicare. Those programs … are the driver of U.S. debt.”

Rubio attributed the weakening dollar to “fluctuations in currency” at first, before we pointed out that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said that he welcomes dollar weakness in recent months.

“That fluctuates based on global trends, it also fluctuates based on the administration,” Rubio said.

“What we do know for certain,” Rubio said, “is that we’ve got a historic number of people who are going to retire, they’re going to live longer than they’ve ever lived, in programs that were designed when we had 16 people working for every retiree.”

The ratio is 2:1 now.

“I support those programs. My mom is on Social Security and Medicare,” Rubio said. “I don’t want to see any changes to [those programs] that would harm her or people like her.”

“I’m talking about my generation and people younger than me. We want there to be Social Security and Medicare … that they’re able to exist and provide services long term. We have to address that in Congress,” Rubio added.

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