Jacksonville Archives - Florida Politics

Jacksonville area sees lower unemployment in September

Friday saw Gov. Rick Scott‘s Department of Economic Opportunity release September job numbers for Northeast Florida, a mixed bag in the wake of Irma.

The good news, via the DEO: the Jacksonville area’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent in September, down 1.4 points from September 2016.

Unemployment rates ranged from 2.7 percent in St. Johns County to 4.5 percent in rural Putnam County.

The governor’s office prefers year-over-year comparisons, and to that end some results are interesting.

Two industries that have lost jobs over the year augur a potential economic slowdown: leisure and hospitality (-3,800 jobs) and mining, logging, and construction (‐500 jobs).

All told, non-agricultural employment in the Jacksonville MSA was 677,000, an increase of 2,900 jobs (+0.4 percent) over the year.

Jacksonville Bold for 10.20.17 — Winning is everything

Politics in Northeast Florida — except when hot-button social issues like lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights or Confederate monuments are in play — is often a matter of mechanics.

Much of what we see in this week’s Bold: a matter of fundamentals, blocking and tackling.

We see it with our region’s two congressmen, raising money for the re-election and working together on a veterans’ bill.

We see it with a House Speaker of the future, who looks to use state law to take on “rogue” liberal cities run by “Bernie Sanders” types.

And we see it in City Hall, where the Mayor essentially is Ric Flair, his team The Four Horsemen, and everyone who gets in their way is grist for the mill.

While chaos and drama are typically what get the TV cameras to City Hall, the real action is far more quotidian and subtle: behind-the-scenes conversations, allegations and counter-allegations, and a well-timed forearm shiver for a pol who may have gotten ambitious at the expense of a larger agenda.

And just outside of City Hall, what bears watching is a rapidly developing 2019 field of Council candidates — men and women who could prove to be a dispositive, influential bloc of voters after those elections.

The idea behind Jacksonville Bold: to provide actionable, meaningful insight into the process.

Anyone can tell you who wins after the fact. We generally tell you before a lot of observers even know a game is being played.

House incumbents bank cash during third quarter

Republican John Rutherford of Congressional District 4 and Democrat Al Lawson of CD 5 continue to sock money away for 2018 re-election bids.

Of the two, Rutherford had the more active third quarter of 2017.

Northeast Florida’s Congressmen are prepping for re-election bids. Via WJCT

Rutherford’s total receipts are now up to $241,484, with $146,044 cash on hand.

Rutherford hauled in over $155,000 of that $241,000 total from January to June 2017, meaning he raised over $85,000 during the last three months.

Lawson has $190,126 raised (all but $51,000 of that from committees), with $97,876 cash on hand.

As of the last quarterly report filed in July, Lawson had brought in over $158,000, doing even better than Rutherford. However, it’s clear that fundraising momentum slowed down, with roughly $32,000 delivered in this quarter.

Rutherford, Lawson collaborate on veterans’ bill

Rutherford and Lawson, meanwhile, have joined forces for a new piece of veteran-friendly legislation.

HR 3965 — the “Veterans Armed for Success Act” — would appropriate $5M for job-related training and “transition assistance” for military veterans.

John Rutherford addressed media about his latest vet-friendly bill.

That $5M would go to eligible organizations in the form of federal matching funds, defraying up to 50 percent of costs.

In Jacksonville Tuesday afternoon at “Operation New Uniform,” Rutherford — who introduced the legislation —  addressed local media, explaining how the bill would work in helping military veterans with “transitioning into stable-long term employment.”

“Veterans get the job done and get the job done right,” Rutherford said, adding that his bill would help “set up veterans for success.”

Paul Renner takes on ‘rogue’ local governments

Rep. Renner foreshadowed some of what his speakership may look like in a recent interview noticed by Flagler Live.

Paul Renner takes aim at ‘Bernie Sanders’ type rogues in liberal local governments.

Urban values — more “liberal” than the rest of the state — look likely to be challenged.

“Part of this, to be real blunt about it,” Renner said, “what you’re seeing and this is part of a larger conversation could have is the concentration of support for a more center-left or left-wing viewpoint, and this is again not Flagler County, but our major cities, San Francisco, New York.”

“The Democrat Party has really become a party of dense urban areas, and the rest of the country tends to be more conservative, more Republican,” Renner added.

He continued: “So part of the fight, part of the sub-context of this whole discussion, is the reason we think they’re going rogue is because it’s Bernie Sanders in charge of your local city government or county government in some cases, and doing things that really are sharp departures from the way the country has become so prosperous, so strong and so free, and so states are stepping in to say, look, we’re not going to let you destroy all the good work that we’re doing and all the economic growth we’re creating in the state for people by trying to ban or shut down particular industries that you don’t like.”

“So there is that ideological struggle that I think may become more and more prevalent,” Renner added, “where you see battles nationwide, more battles between states as a whole that tend to be more as a whole, center-right and cities, again as a whole more big cities than Palm Coast, tend to be more to the left.”

Sanctuary cities were an example spotlighted in the article. But some fear an expansion of discussion parameters to matters like Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance as well, expanded in 2016 to include protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in public accommodations, housing and employment areas.

Business as usual

Florida Times-Union writer David Bauerlein has been routinely frustrated in his attempts to get an interview with Councilwoman Katrina Brown regarding $590,000 of city money that went to her family business for a BBQ sauce plant that ended up flatlining.

Sauce loss: Councilwoman Katrina Brown’s company has ‘jerked’ the city around.

Fifty-six jobs were supposed to be created in the 2011 deal, but none were.

Bauerlein’s piece amply documents a slipshod review and oversight process that spanned two mayoral administrations, while avoiding editorial comments.

It would be interesting if city officials were willing to review the incongruity of Brown sitting on the Council’s Finance Committee even as she deals with these issues. However, the reality is that is not going to happen. There will never be moves to remove Brown from Finance.

The Council lacks a willingness to police its members. And the head of the Ethics Commission is subject to Council approval in an upcoming legislative cycle.

Opioid lawsuit from Jax seems inevitable

On Monday and Tuesday, Jacksonville City Council panels OK’d a resolution (2017-674) to allow the city’s general counsel to “investigate and pursue” a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.

Will Big Pharma make a big payout to Jacksonville? Council seems to want it.

Full Council approval will be a formality and will almost certainly be conferred next week.

The resolution calls out “pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors” as potential lawsuit targets, yet does not rule out other targets.

The bill allows for general counsel to consider outside representation. Each firm’s financial capability to pursue the matter is among criteria reviewed by general counsel, and no out-of-pocket costs would be absorbed by the city.

The city would need its own legal action to secure its own potential recovery. This would not be a class action suit, as each city has its individual impacts.

Jax poised to move forward on Hart Bridge study

$1.5M looks poised to be earmarked for a “design criteria study” or changes to the Hart Bridge in Jacksonville — a priority of the Lenny Curry administration, albeit one with shifting rationales.

Curry first floated the project last year, telling the Duval Legislative Delegation that the idea was to route traffic onto Bay Street to drive traffic toward the Sports Complex and related attractions.

Now the rationale is different: the goal is to help semi-trucks drive freight.

Will Jacksonville get a federal grant to change traffic flow on the Eastside? Time will tell.

The project, supported by FDOT, would provide for “free-flowing truck traffic,” with a T intersection at Gator Bowl Boulevard to route traffic onto Talleyrand Avenue, to help improve freight transport.

This $1.5 million is important because the city is pursuing a federal infrastructure grant of $25 million, with $12.5 million from the state of Florida in matching money and $12.5 million from the city.

Stakes are high: if the federal money falls through, so does matching money from the state.

Jacksonville has one of three similar grant applications pending with the federal government, currently, though there is no timetable on when a grant may be approved.

Curry wins another pension argument

To the surprise of few, Councilman Danny Becton’s latest attempt to sock away more money for pension liability went bust in Council.

Becton sought increases in general fund revenue earmarked toward pension obligations. The Mayor’s Office doesn’t support the bill, yet it has been around for months.

It was killed again this week in Finance Committee, where Becton is a Vice-Chair, and co-sponsor Garrett Dennis is the Chair.

Another co-sponsor — Council President Anna Brosche — was in committee but didn’t speak up.

Danny Becton-nomics: a “no sale” to Council colleagues, despite leadership backing.

CFO Mike Weinstein threw cold water on the bill early on, saying “we thought pension was basically finished,” noting that changes to the bill haven’t changed the Mayor’s Office’s position on the bill.

Weinstein also noted that, even when growth abates, the compounding of interest hikes will demand higher payments regardless — creating a potential unfunded mandate.

“If we’re neutral one year, we still have to make a compound increase to the pension fund,” Weinstein said.

Another win for Curry. Another political lesson for those who stand in the way of the machine. In the words of Rocky Horror Picture Show, let’s do the time warp again.

Ron Salem gears up for race against Bill Bishop

A Jacksonville City Council race worth watching in 2019 features two Republicans: former Councilman Bill Bishop against Ron Salem, a well-connected 61-year-old making his first run for office.

Ron Salem finally has competition in the 2019 Jax Council derby.

Salem had the same reaction as many did when Bishop announced he was running for Council.

Given that Bishop declared his intentions to run again for mayor after the 2015 race, Salem wondered why Bishop had deviated from his confident declaration.

“[Bishop] decided to run for Council for reasons that were unclear to me,” Salem said.

In what has to be seen as an irony, Bishop may not be running for mayor again — but he will get a second chance at Curry’s political team, as Tim Baker and Brian Hughes are running Salem’s campaign also.

Currently, Salem has banked $101K.

In 2015’s mayoral race, Bishop garnered roughly 17 percent of the vote. He endorsed then-incumbent Mayor Alvin Brown, a Democrat, after his loss in the “First Election.”

LeAnna Cumber, Rose Conry launch Council runs

In the last week, LeAnna Cumber and Rose Conry each filed paperwork to launch long-expected campaigns for Jacksonville City Council.

Cumber, a well-connected Republican, will be running to replace termed-out Lori Boyer in District 5. Conry, a likewise well-connected Republican who will be a Jax Chamber favorite, is running to replace Matt Schellenberg in District 6.

LeAnna Cumber is well-suited to continue the Lori Boyer tradition in the district.

These campaigns — like those of District 13 candidate Rory Diamond, District 14 hopeful Randy DeFoor, and at-large candidate Ron Salem — will be run by Tim Baker and Brian Hughes, Curry’s political advisers who seem to be cornering the market on pragmatic Republican candidates.

There are those who wonder how Baker and Hughes are able to shape narratives. Spoiler alert: they outwork their competitors in this market, as insiders and those who cover the game know better than those who watch from a safe remove.

RIP, Jim Tullis

Jacksonville lost a former City Councilman this week; Jim Tullis died at the age of 75.

Former Council colleague Eric Smith was quoted remembering Tullis in the Florida Times-Union.

Jim Tullis was an insurance agent by trade.

“He was all about what was best for his constituents and the city of Jacksonville,” Smith told the T-U. “He was a very fair council president, fair with the public and worked very well with his colleagues.

“Jim always embraced the tough assignments and relished a hard task,” Smith said.

“ … He spent months on working out the comprehensive plan, which included zoning and other issues.”

So sorry, I said

Just as the Jacksonville Jaguars roll over on the field, their president did so in a grovel-by-numbers letter to Jacksonville City officials, apologizing for team members protesting in London during the U.S. national anthem.

Jaguars’ apology for national anthem protest — will it help with restive fans?

The team “was remiss in not fully comprehending the effect of the national anthem demonstration on foreign soil has had on the men and women who have or continue to serve our country.”

“Similarly, we today can better appreciate how standing for God Save The Queen may have been viewed negatively by our armed forces here in Jacksonville and beyond …  today we can understand how the events in London on Sept. 24 could have been viewed or misinterpreted. We owe you an apology and hope you will accept it.”

One meeting attendee has already come out saying the apology was bunk.

April Green to JEA Board

Jacksonville’s JEA Board will have a new member soon — pending City Council approval.

April Green has been selected to fill a vacancy left by Ed Burr, who stepped down from the board earlier this year.

Ed Burr’s spot on the board took some months to fill, raising questions for some media.

Legislation will be introduced by Curry this week, and City Council approval will be necessary for Green to join the utility’s board.

Green, an Air Force Veteran who served in Desert Storm, brings to the table extensive experience in business and marketing, along with a deep-seated connection with the community through religious faith and philanthropy.

Currently, Green is the chief operating officer for Baxter Technology, in addition to being the CFO/chief operating officer for Bethel Baptist Institutional Church in Jacksonville.

Previously, Green served as corporate tourism director for the Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A member of the Board of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Green also is a 2015 Leadership Florida graduate.

Buc-ee’s to SJC; 120 gas pumps

In the world of convenience stores, bigger is better, apparently. And Texas chain Buc-ee’s will test that theorem as it brings one of its supersized one-stop-shops to St. Johns County.

This will be, reports the Jax Daily Record, a 52.6K square foot facility at the World Golf Village exit on I-95.

Expect these billboards up and down I-95 next year.

The board of county commissioners will mull the proposal within the next three months and could greenlight it from there.

If variances are needed, the process could take another three months, the Daily Record adds.

St. Augustine’s monumental decision

All those people gassing up in St. Johns County will need something to look at afterward. So why not Confederate monuments in St. Augustine?

First Coast News reports that the city manager is poised to recommend that the city keep its monuments — but with added verbiage offering “contextualization.”

‘Contextualization’ of monuments should solve everything.

“There are two options not being recommended by staff. First would be to do nothing, and miss an opportunity to tell the city’s complete history. The other would be to relocate it which raises a number of challenges including how to move it without physically destroying it, the cost and who would pay, and identifying a place for relocation,” a news release from St. Augustine city government said.

Staff recommendations will be discussed Monday at a city government meeting.

Debbie Buckland Chair-elect of Jax Chamber

The Jacksonville Daily Record reports that Debbie Buckland is the chair-elect of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

“The chamber is on the forefront of what is happening in our city and leads on important issues,” Buckland said in a news release.

Buckland is the fifth female chair since 1901.

She will be the chair in 2019 after former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton wraps his tenure.

Jacksonville University highlights new downtown campus

JU is showing off its new downtown Jacksonville campus this week, a return to the neighborhood helped by a $274,000 renovation loan from the Downtown Investment Authority.

“It’s a proud moment for us,” JU President Tim Cost said in remarks reported by the Florida Times-Union. “It’s a red-letter day for Jacksonville University to re-engage its presence downtown.”

JU is showing off its new downtown Jacksonville campus at the SunTrust tower this week.

Three days a week, around 100 students will attend classes in the SunTrust Tower, which will be staffed by 30 faculty and support members full-time. With the planned executive MBA program this spring, more students, including some who will fly into the region, will be taking classes on the 18th floor.

According to the T-U: “The downtown campus is oriented to older students who don’t care as much about the traditional trappings of college life. They are more interested in being in an urban setting, and the SunTrust Tower fits that bill, university officials said.”

Burrito Gallery to open near St Johns Town Center

Local casual food chain Burrito Gallery is opening in the growing Southside area, nearby the St Johns Town Center.

Metro Jacksonville notes the restaurant’s fourth location will be at the southwest corner of Gate Parkway and Deerwood Park Boulevard, roughly between St Johns Town Center and the 335,000-square foot Ikea set to open in November at the corner of Gate Parkway and the I-295/9A East Beltway.

Burrito Gallery will be located in Gateway Village at Town Center, an 18.5-acre mixed-use development owned and developed by Cantrell & Morgan. Metro Jacksonville also reports that long-term plans for the $75 million Gateway Village at Town Center include “a 289-unit luxury apartment complex, a RaceTrac gas station/convenience store, an urgent care facility and over 38,000 square feet of retail uses.”

The proposed Gateway Village at Town Center site at Gate Parkway and Deerwood Park Boulevard. Image: Cantrell & Morgan.

Launched in 2005, Burrito Gallery was part of a wave of new businesses opening ahead of Super Bowl XXXIX. It soon expanded to Jacksonville Beach and Jacksonville’s Brooklyn neighborhood.

Specializing in handmade tacos, burritos, quesadillas and salads, Burrito Gallery was a local leader in the ‘Jax Mex’ concept, named ‘best burrito’ by Folio Weekly as “Best of Jax” and “#1 in the 904” poll every year by Void Magazine.

Jacksonville Zoo 30th anniversary ‘Spooktacular’

In October, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens celebrates the 30th year of “Spooktacular” Halloween.

The popular fall event will be three weekends:

— Oct. 13-15

— Oct. 20-22

— Oct. 27-31

Visitors of all ages are encouraged to take part by wearing family-friendly costumes for trick-or-treating, music, dancing and special scare zones.

Jacksonville Zoo celebrates 30 years of “Spooktacular” Halloween.

This year’s features include Sweet Pete’s Candy Trail, an all-new scare zone, zombies, pumpkin sculptures, and a two-way guest path.

“This is such an exciting time of year here at the zoo,” Zoo executive director Tony Vecchio tells News 4 Jax. “The entire staff pulls together to put on what has become Jacksonville’s premier Halloween event. We have been thrilling Jacksonville for 30 years and this year will be better than ever.”

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will open each night from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Ticket sales end at 9 p.m. nightly.

‘Tons of fun’ at ZOOLights

Welcome the holiday season among sparkling lights and brilliant hues at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ Fifth Annual ZOOLights. Thousands of LED lights will transform the Zoo into a luminous winter wonderland filled with “moving sculptures, forests of lighted trees and animal silhouettes.”

The event will feature sculptures and performances by local artists — including some from UNF — a fairy village in the Range of the Jaguar courtesy of Rockaway Garden Center, and votives created by students of JU’s ceramics program. Along with thousands of lights and holiday music, guests can enjoy a unique view of ZOOLights by boarding the Zoo’s lighted train (the train only runs from the back of the Zoo to the front).

Guests can also enjoy carousel rides, the 4-D Theater featuring the Polar Express, marshmallow roasting, warm weather “ice” skating and more for an extra charge.

ZOOLights will be Dec. 9 -11 and Dec. 16 — Jan. 7. Closed Christmas Day.

— 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday — Thursday

— 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday & Saturday

The Zoo closes at 5 p.m. and will reopen for ZOOLights at 6 p.m.

Tickets are $10/Non-Members; $8/Zoo Members; save $1 when you order online. Special activities are an extra cost.

New this year: ZOOLights Value Tickets! Adults: $15/Non-Members; $12/Zoo Members.

Includes train, 4D Theater, Stingray Bay and Carousel (Children 12 and under).

Armada playoff hopes dented, tied for fourth in NASL

North Carolina FC earned a valuable point on the road Friday night at Hodges Stadium with a 1-1 draw against Jacksonville Armada FC. The draw keeps NCFC five points ahead of Jacksonville in third place and puts a dent in the Armada’s playoff hopes. The top four teams in the NASL table qualify for the playoffs and Jacksonville currently sits in a fourth-place tie.

In the 21st minute, Jacksonville broke open the game with a goal from Zach Steinberger. The Jacksonville midfielder found an opening in the NCFC defense and converted a chance that ended a 380-minute shutout streak for NCFC.

North Carolina FC dented the Jacksonville Armada playoff hopes at Hodges Stadium with a 1-1 draw.

NCFC responded just before the halftime whistle in the 36th minute, as Renan Gorne slotted home his sixth goal of the year. Combination play from Nazmi Albadawi and Steven Miller freed up Albadawi behind the Armada defense. The Raleigh native fed Gorne who converted the chance at the back post.

Following the break, the sides played an end-to-end game, but neither could find the back of the net in the second half and the game ended in a stalemate.  The Armada had several half chances but didn’t find a breakthrough.

“That was a really high-level game of football. You could tell by the speed of the game from start to finish,” head coach Mark Lowry said. “We did enough to win. I thought the guys were fantastic, we showed tonight that we can beat anybody and play with anybody.”

The result leaves the Armada out of the final playoff position on a tiebreaker with three matches remaining. The most critical of these three matches will come Sunday at Hodges Stadium against the New York Cosmos. The teams are currently deadlocked in the NASL table in the fourth and final postseason position. First, the Armada must contend with FC Edmonton who visits Hodges Stadium Wednesday night.

Jacksonville concludes its NASL season Saturday, Oct. 28, in San Francisco against the Deltas.

Flags at half-staff for former Jax Rep. Jim Tullis

Gov. Rick Scott ordered flags at half-staff to honor former state Rep. James F. “Jim” Tullis, who died Saturday.

Tullis represented District 17, which included Jacksonville, in the Florida House of Representatives for one term between 1999 and 2000.

He graduated with a degree in business and economics from Jacksonville University in 1965, and he was an independent insurance agent and a former city council president.

Tullis also served 13 years in the U.S. Army Special Forces Reserves.

Scott ordered the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Duval County Courthouse, Jacksonville City Hall, and the state Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Thursday. 

Full Jax Council to vote on $90M for Section 8 complexes

$90,000,000 is one step closer for the acqusition, rebranding and rehab of four of Jacksonville’s most troubled low-income housing developments, which contain 768 units total.

Jacksonville City Council resolution 2017-671, which would authorize $90,000,000 in Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority bonds for  Millennia Housing Management (MHM) to “finance, acquire, rehab & equip four Multifamily Rental Housing Developments,” was approved by Council committees of reference Monday and Tuesday.

That approval clears the way for full Council approval next week.

Along with the new money was supposed to come new names; 400-unit Eureka Gardens, 94-unit Moncrief Village, 74-unit Southside Apartments & 200-unit Washington Heights would be known as Valencia Way, Estuary Estates, Oyster Pointe and Charlesfort Commons, respectively.

However, Finance Committee members balked at the renaming, saying there wasn’t any local connection to the names. This led to a floor amendment to strike the new names from the bill.

A representative of the Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority (HUD) said that MHM’s national project-based Section 8 portfolio factored into the JHFA’s confidence in them.

HUD had a “vested interest” in ensuring MHM could handle taking on the Global Ministries Foundation national portfolio, the JHFA rep added.

“It is a significant step forward,” marveled Councilman Greg Anderson on Monday. “They’re going to rename … rebrand, significantly invest in these.”

“I looked at the cost per unit,” added Councilman Jim Love Monday, “and it came out to almost $140,000 per unit.”

Such capital would drive capital rehabilitation, a shortfall of current ownership that led to national scrutiny on that portfolio, said a JHFA representative.

There would be a credit underwriting report before the transaction was OK’d by JHFA; the idea is for work to begin on the properties early next year.

MHM has pledged significant resources to facility rehabilitation in the past, as a 2014 tax incentive application makes clear.

In acquiring a 160-unit Section 8 complex in upstate New York, the company pledged to spend $8.8 million on the “soft costs” of renovation. Pro-rated, this comes out to $55,000 a unit, as the company vowed to address a “multitude of capital needs” for the apartments, including kitchen and bathroom renovation and installing new windows.

Jacksonville Bold for 10.13.17 — Power, money and timing

Jacksonville Bold is intended to appeal to a discerning audience, particularly to those who see politics for what it truly is — a confluence of money, power and timing.

We see evidence of that in every Bold — and this week is no different, as Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s Kids Hope Alliance reform bill advanced through the City Council by an 18-1 vote.

Its success comes as no small feat, given Council President Anna Brosche attempted to forestall both discussion of the bill and the vote itself, even going so far as to accuse an administration member and a city lawyer of working to keep the bill from the public.

And Brosche was the sole vote against discharging the bill to the Council floor — a nearly unheard of repudiation of a legislative body’s presiding officer.

In the end, though, Brosche overcame those qualms and voted for the bill — but not before Curry issued a statement condemning her accusations. Of course, there have been schisms between Council presidents and mayors in the past; but this one is different.

That’s because politics in this region are different.

Stakes are higher. Money is bigger. Operatives work 27/6. Nowadays, the way to win a political argument is not through churches and town halls. It’s all targeting and microtargeting, persuasion of the “velvet glove, iron fist” variety, and an understanding that when a bluff is called, most people will cave.

As we move toward the 2018 election cycle — and the 2019 local derby — file those insights; they may end up being predictive.

Fundraising roundup

September was not a record-breaking month for campaign finance reports in Northeast Florida. Blame Hurricane Irma.

State Senate incumbents, however, did well in amassing money for re-election bids — Aaron Bean brought in $33K, and Audrey Gibson brought in $12K.

In state House races, HD 15 Republican hopeful Wyman Duggan topped $10K for the month. And his Democratic opponent, Tracye Polson, brought in $51K in September. Otherwise, no one topped $7,500.

There was, however, marginally more exciting committee action: Palm Coast Speaker-of-the-future Paul Renner saw his committee give $20K to Speaker-of-the-present Richard Corcoran — who just may be running for Governor as soon as next year’s Legislative Session ends.

Lenny Curry’s political committee cleared $38K in September — and $25K of that came from Shad Khan. And Sheriff Mike Williams finally paid for a controversial August poll through his committee; price tag was almost $9,000 … more than he brought in.

Lenny Curry reaches up for high-fives with Jags’ owner Shad Khan.

The big play of the month came from Attorney General candidate Jay Fant, who loaned his campaign $750,000 — just the kind of thing a candidate that’s not part of the “establishment” does because all the cool kids have three-quarters of a million bucks sitting around. Fant had faced questions about his fundraising, but with one stroke of the pen, he established resource parity with Ashley Moody.

Will that bring Downtown Jacksonville around?

One candidate who won’t be loaning herself $750,000 — Jacksonville City Council hopeful Randy DeFoor. DeFoor, in his first month in the District 14 race, brought in $51,000 — more money, by far, than every other active local 2019 candidate combined brought in during September.

Her political committee brought in an extra $25,000.

Rob Bradley: Senate sentencing bill a ‘win-win’

Florida’s prison industry has endured scrutiny in recent years, and a new bill from Sen. Bradley may offer some relief for the sector.

SB 484 will authorize a court to sentence prisoners to county jail for up to 24 months if that county has a DOC contract.

The bill would also require prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. Those prisoners will have sentences that don’t run longer than 24 months, and most felony convictions are exempt from this proposal.

State prison overcrowding could mean stable revenue for counties with room in jails.

On Wednesday, Bradley told Florida Politics that this is not a new idea.

“This is an idea that I’ve discussed with Senate and House colleagues for a couple of years now,” Bradley asserted.

Part of the problem is that the state has more prisoners than its facilities can handle, Bradley said.

“Right now,” Bradley said, “the state incarcerates 100,000 inmates. After dealing with this issue for years, I’ve come to the conclusion that our infrastructure and personnel is simply not equipped to handle that number. We need to reduce the state population. This is a strategy to accomplish this goal.”

Good news/bad news as Bradley bill clears committee

WGCU reports a good news/bad news scenario for a Bradley bill to put more money into the St. Johns River and North Florida springs.

St. Johns River money, a priority of Rob Bradley, may not be the Senate’s priority in the end.

Latvala chairs the Appropriations Committee.

“At some point in time — probably [on] the Appropriations Committee — we’ll have to put all those bills that we have this year, and the bills that we’ve passed over the last couple cycles on one sheet and figure out how we divide it up,” Latvala said.

With budget pressures mounting for Florida on several fronts, Bradley’s attempt to bring more Amendment 1 money to North Florida will be worth watching. It might be a heavier lift than locals hope.

Aaron Bean backs Jay Fant

One favorable augury for Fant: An endorsement this week from Republican state Sen. Bean.

Jay-mentum continues as Aaron Bean support sprouts for the AG hopeful.

“Senator Bean has been a longtime voice for conservative politics in Northeast Florida,” Fant said. “His endorsement is one to be very proud of. We look forward to working with Senator Bean on our conservative platform for years to come.”

Fant still has his last year to serve in the Florida House; since he is not running for re-election, candidates have filed already on the Democratic and Republican lines both in his House District 15.

Fant has gotten roughly a dozen House colleagues to endorse him; his strategy seems to be as the regional candidate who can roll up his sleeves and talk to the grassroots.

Rory Diamond launches Jax Council run

It was no surprise that Neptune Beach City Councilor Rory Diamond started a campaign to succeed Bill Gulliford on the Jacksonville City Council.

Rory Diamond is a candidate to watch for 2019, and likely beyond.

What will be a surprise: If anyone can mount a serious challenge to the Republican alum of the George W. Bush White House and Arnold Schwarzenegger Governor’s Mansion.

A broad cross-section of the city’s power elite supports Diamond and is very comfortable with policy discussions — including those affecting the broader expanse of Duval County, as well as the more granular issues relative to Jacksonville Beach.

Expect him to message heavily on public safety — and, bearing the gravitas of a former federal prosecutor — meaningfully. One of his recurrent theorems: that a lot of the Beaches’ crime problem is coming over from the other side of the ditch.

Censure for Councilors?

Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche raised the possibility of censure for two legislators who supported her run for the Council presidency.

The subject: A confrontation between Councilors Reggie Gaffney and Katrina Brown and police officers after a Council meeting last month.

Gaffney has issued the expected mea culpa statements for attempting to leverage his power as a Councilman to check the officers who pulled him over. However, Brown — who accused officers of racial profiling — has yet to apologize.

That point was not lost on the Fraternal Order of Police, which saw its national and state presidents in Jacksonville Tuesday night to condemn Councilwoman Brown’s accusations and unwillingness to walk them back.

“The ultimate repercussion is going to be leveled by their districts … if there is any,” Brosche said.

Brosche has requested “options” from the General Counsel, including what authority Council has, and expects them at the next Council meeting.

“The question is around censure — is it an option for Council,” Brosche said.

Did Irma kill crops?

It’s a race against time for Northeast Florida farmers, per the Florida Times-Union. Hurricane Irma devastated crops last month, and yields — and farms themselves — hang in the balance.

Irma created a big problem for large — and small — farms throughout the state.

Per a Florida Farm Bureau representative: “Many of the losses will be calculated in coming weeks. It’s very difficult for folks to make a total estimate if they’re still struggling to get to their fields, their pastures, round up animals, to repair buildings.”

Among the potential culinary casualties: Christmas coleslaw from St. Johns County.

Clay County, hit hard by Irma, may have suffered more grievously had it not been for delayed planting … as heavy rains had already pushed back planting schedules.

Turn around, don’t drown

The Tampa Bay Times published a long-form, damning article laying out Jacksonville’s vulnerability to flooding during a hurricane.

“The city is dangerously flood-prone,” the TBT attested, as Irma was merely a tropical storm by the time it affected Jacksonville … and the storm could have been worse.

Floods from Irma were unprecedented … yet could be the future in Jacksonville, per TBT.

Of course, some caveats led to the epic flooding: a full moon drove the storm surge, the rain was another factor. But where the TBT article makes its point is a twofold contention.

— Jacksonville has not put money into drainage in older neighborhoods, especially those close to the water.

— Jacksonville officials have no real plan to deal with the matter.

The city’s finances are stretched: millage rates are low, there is no political appetite to raise them. Pension reform offered some fiscal relief, but the recurrent investment of that aid is in human resources — public-sector unions, legacy costs.

John Thrasher enters Confederate monument debate

Florida State University President Thrasher set up a 15-person committee to review Confederate markers and monuments, reports the Tallahassee Democrat.

“I expect them to be deliberate, to be thoughtful and to seek input from the entire Florida State community as they do their work,” Thrasher said about the new  President’s Advisory Panel on University Namings and Recognitions.

John Thrasher is involved in a monument controversy, but not the local Jacksonville one.

The Democrat reports that “the campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society has sought the removal of the statue of Francis Eppes near the Westcott Building. Eppes, the grandson of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, is a former Tallahassee mayor who helped found West Florida Seminary, the forerunner of today’s FSU.”

JTA CEO elected chair of national org

JTA CEO Nat Ford this weekend was elected as Chair of the American Public Transportation Association and calls the election “one of the greatest honors” he’s received in his career.

JTA CEO Nat Ford has been named Chair of the American Public Transportation Association.

Ford expects his chairmanship to bring “national attention” to Jacksonville, a city that is currently involved in attempts to modernize its approach to mass transit through various infrastructural investments — including a regional transportation center under construction.

Among his focuses in the APTA chair: “leveraging big data,” “enterprise risk management,” and the “new mobility paradigm” — which, we hear, will also double as the name for Ford’s indie rock group.

Jax loves Shad; Republicans cool to Jags

University of North Florida polls shows high approval ratings for both the owner and coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

While Shad Khan and Doug Marrone sit at 65 and 58 percent approval, there nonetheless is still some grievance from Republicans toward the home team’s anthem protest in London.

Republicans are less likely to watch games on television or attend, per the survey; almost 63 percent indicated they were less likely to watch NFL games and 57 percent said they were less likely to attend games.

Democrats are unmoved; while 14 and 11 percent respectively said they were less likely to watch or go to games, a full 18 percent of Dems are more likely to watch and attend.

Pollsters conducted the live-dial survey with 512 registered Duval County voters between Oct. 2 and Oct. 4.

The first-place Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Los Angeles Rams at home, Sunday at 1 p.m.

Bean calls for elected Secretary of State

This week, the Fernandina Beach Republican filed a proposal to ask Florida voters to make the secretary of state an elected Cabinet position, removing the governor’s power to appoint Florida’s highest elections official. The News Service of Florida reports that SJR 506 seeks to undo a change approved by voters in 1998 that reduced the size of the Cabinet to three members.

Under that ballot measure, the positions of secretary of state and education commissioner became appointed in 2002 and dropped the Cabinet posts of comptroller and treasurer. It also created a new Cabinet position, chief financial officer, while keeping the attorney general and agriculture commissioner.

For inclusion on the 2018 ballot, Bean’s proposal must be approved by three-fifths of both legislative chambers and would ultimately need approval from 60 percent of voters. Bean sponsored similar legislation in the 2017 session, with the Senate approving it in a 33-2 vote, but failed to advance in the House.

Able Trust lauds Bean

“Senator of the Year” — that’s the designation the Able Trust put on Sen. Bean Monday.

“I look forward to continuing to work with The Able Trust to ensure that Floridians with disabilities are never left behind and are given the opportunities they so rightly deserve,” Bean added.

Sen. Aaron Bean gets plaudits from the Able Trust.

This has been Bean’s third award from the Able Trust. He has historically fought to ensure the nonprofit received funding that was on the chopping block.

Meredith Charbula to Duval County Court

Eric Roberson’s vacancy, left when the former Duval judge moved to the 4th Circuit Court, has now been filled.

Meredith Charbula counted Lenny Curry as an ally.

Meredith Charbula, 59, of Jacksonville, will leave her role as Director of the Legal Division for the Office of the State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit to fill the slot.

Charbula, an alumna of FSU’s law school, was recommended four times by commissions … and passed over four times in the past, reported the Florida Times-Union.

“Some people call me stubborn. I call it tenacious,” she said when asked why she kept trying.

Leadership moves for KIPP Jacksonville

After more than eight years with KIPP Jacksonville Public Charter Schools, Executive Director Tom Majdanics has passed the leadership torch to Dr. Jennifer Brown, who will move from her role as Chief Academic Officer.

Zach Rossley, formerly Chief Operating Officer, will now serve as president and COO, taking on new and added responsibilities.

New Executive Director, Dr. Jennifer Brown, with students at KIPP Jacksonville Elementary.

Brown joined the KIPP Jacksonville team in 2015, with more than 15 years of experience as an educator and leader in large urban, rural, and nonprofit settings. She earned both a B.A. and M.A. in English from Winthrop University and an Ed.D. in Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University.

Brown is also a proud U.S. Army Veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

KIPP Jacksonville Schools are part of the KIPP non-profit network of college-preparatory, public charter schools.

Jacksonville Bold for 10.6.17 — After the storm

Jacksonville politics are returning to normal after a wild summer that included a newly assertive City Council flexing its muscles over Mayor Lenny Curry’s budget, followed by impacts from Hurricane Irma that are only now receding.

Politicians, as you will read below, are still working to pick up the pieces, as photo ops are now replaced by the more quotidian work of relief and securing federal reimbursements for debris removal.

Local budgets have been approved for a new fiscal year, meaning that the pyrotechnic posturing will — especially as the holiday season approaches — dial down.

That said, we can now turn our attention to approaching storms: those being the 2018 Legislative Session (for which bills are being filed), 2018 campaigns for state office (which will see a lot of pre-primary action on the Republican side), and the 2019 Jacksonville municipal campaigns (for which candidates are filing).

Expect moves (in some cases) to be as quiet as possible — and expect us to listen at the keyholes for the whispers … and tell you the important stuff.

John Rutherford talks Irma recovery

U.S. Rep. Rutherford took to the House floor this week to discuss the response to Hurricane Irma, lauding the first responders and National Guardsmen who are so pivotal in the reaction.

But Rutherford’s comments looked forward as well; namely, to ensure Florida — specifically Northeast Florida — gets what is necessary for recovery.

Rep. John Rutherford was vital in bringing House leadership through Jacksonville last month.

“Mr. Speaker,” Rutherford said, “the Florida delegation in this House is now unified to ensure that Floridians receive the Federal support they need to recover from this horrible natural disaster, Hurricane Irma.”

Rutherford added that “the Port of Jacksonville is ground zero for getting shipments of needed goods to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In fact, the American Maritime Partnership and the entire U.S. maritime industry are, first responders in times of emergency like Irma and Maria when they strike Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”

Indeed, just this week Gov. Rick Scott visited JAXPORT to see shipments of goods headed to Puerto Rico.

Speaker Paul Ryan should be acutely aware of Jacksonville’s strategic importance in relief efforts; he came through Jacksonville last month as part of his post-Irma tour of the devastation Irma wrought.

Gov. Rick Scott visits JAXPORT to see shipments of goods headed to Puerto Rico.

Al Lawson: ‘Let’s Feed America’

U.S. Rep. Lawson has focused on food scarcity issues in his first term in DC — and with good reason, as his Congressional District 5 has many so-called “food deserts.”

To that end, Lawson is using several creative approaches. The latest, reports WUSF: the launch of the “Let’s Feed America” campaign.

Rep. Al Lawson again is turning attention to regional food security issues.

The goal: “To reduce hunger by expanding eligibility and making it easier for those in need to receive access to food.”

Lawson’s constituents rely heavily on the SNAP program; one in four have used it this year.

President Donald Trump wants to cut this program, an outcome Lawson called “totally unacceptable.”

$100 million for Florida Forever?

The Florida Forever program hasn’t been funded in the way people expected when they voted to appropriate Amendment 1 funds for it in 2014. The biggest amount earmarked for land acquisition thus far: $15.2M.

A new Senate bill from Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley seeks to change that, requiring an at least $100M allocation per year, for protection of Florida’s increasingly fragile wilderness.

Sen. Rob Bradley continues to fight for environmental spending.

“I am filing this bill because the Constitution demands, and the overwhelming majority of Floridians who voted for Amendment One in 2014 demand, that we protect the natural resources of our state,” Bradley said.

Bradley’s bill comes on the heels of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection seeking $50 million for Florida Forever.

Bradley had already filed a measure for 2018 (SB 204) that would lead to the state spending at least $75 million a year on springs projects and $50 million annually on projects related to the restoration of the St. Johns River and its tributaries or the Keystone Heights Lake Region.

Last Session, Bradley pushed a project consistent with the aims of Florida Forever, securing recurring funds of $13.3 million earmarked for water replenishment in the St. Johns River and Keystone Heights Lake Region.

Tracie Davis moves to protect workers’ rights

As Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida, many residents faced evacuation orders — and some felt pressure from employers not to leave … or else they’d lose their jobs.

A new bill from Rep. Tracie Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat, would rectify that, banning such “employment discrimination.”

Tracie Davis calls this bill “common sense legislation. We agree.

HB 225 would protect employees from “retaliatory personnel action” if they evacuated in compliance with an executive branch evacuation order applicable to their residence.

The employee would have 14 days to return to work — unless there is a lesser timespan mutually agreed upon by the employer and employee.

If fired, the employee could take civil action and remedies could include reinstatement of the employee to his or her previous position, compensation for lost wages, and attorney and court costs.

It does not apply to first responders, people working in nursing homes and those involved in the “restoration of vital services.”

If I do say so myself …

Councilman Garrett Dennis was featured in the Florida Times-Union last weekend, via a letter to the editor that extolled the budget delivery/performance of the City Council Finance Committee he chairs.

Finance Committee did great, per Finance Chair.

Dennis asserted that the committee allowed the budget to be “reviewed and vetted from a different perspective … ensuring that all communities are served,”

Worth noting: The Mayor advanced a massive (by Jacksonville standards) $131M capital improvement budget well before Finance even took a look at the paper. The philosophy was that the short-term budget relief created by immediate pension reform savings would help with priority projects.

Kids Hope Alliance on the rocks?

Jacksonville City Council committees this week were dominated by a dissection of Curry’s Kids Hope Alliance proposal, which seeks to replace Jacksonville’s children’s services organizations — the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jax Journey — with a seven-person board housed in the executive branch.

Will Council scuttle Mayor Lenny Curry’s kids’ program reforms?

Two of three Council committees passed the bill; deferring the measure, however, the Finance Committee … which looks poised to have a meeting Monday to answer questions from Chairman Garrett Dennis and Council President Anna Brosche.

Curry made a relatively rare trip to Council Chambers to sell the plan to one committee, and given that he’s messaged heavily on this one, he’s invested in the outcome.

Will that outcome be Tuesday … or again deferred?

JEA to PR

Some props for Jacksonville’s utility: they are sending crews to Puerto Rico to help the U.S. territory rebuild a power grid devastated by Hurricane Maria.

JEA CEO Paul McElroy is finally past messaging on Irma.

The 40 worker crews will, reports WJCT, work 30-day tours before rotating out. JEA has committed to three months of restoration work.

For JEA, which took a lot of criticism for messaging in the wake of Irma, news like this should help change the narrative … at least until the discussion of McElroy’s bonus comes up later this year.

Bill Bishop, Rory Diamond launch Council bids

The 2019 campaign season is starting in Jacksonville, as two candidates with name identification launched Council runs this week.

Former district Councilman and Mayoral candidate Bill Bishop filed Tuesday in at-large District 2, where he will oppose an ally of Mayor Curry: Ron Salem.

After months of deliberation (and some Jenga), Bill Bishop is back.

Salem has over $100,000 banked, and the Mayor’s political machine on his side. Meanwhile, Bishop built up a lot of goodwill among the Jacksonville smart set in 2015, as he ran an insurgent campaign before endorsing Alvin Brown for Mayor in the runoff.

The open question: will people support or remember Bishop in 2019, after a couple of years out of the relative spotlight of the Council dais? And will Bishop find donors outside of the Curry machine axis?

Out at the Beaches, Neptune Beach Councilor Rory Diamond — another candidate the Mayor’s political machine is excited about — launched his race to succeed fellow Republican Bill Gulliford, who is termed out and ready to move to Montana.

Diamond, an alumnus of the George W. Bush White House, will be the establishment favorite in that race. That said, Beach politics are essentially cannibalism at the ballot box, and almost certainly one or more of Diamond’s opponents will lay into him for using Neptune as a steppingstone to the big show.

Duval School Board OKs budget

The Duval County School Board approved its budget by a 5-1 vote this week … and three guesses as to who the “1” was.

Board member Scott Shine has been a lonely voice on the board, and budget night was no exception. He voted against the budget and called attention to a priority of former board member and current State Rep. Jason Fischer: an audit of $21M that ended up being spent last fiscal year from reserves.

Scott Shine: in the wilderness.

The audit, said Board Chairwoman Paula Wright, was conducted and will be discussed at an upcoming workshop.

A question left unanswered by the Florida Times-Union article: why the audit wasn’t merely distributed via email to board members, allowing for a more contemporaneous discussion — especially before the budget vote.

Meanwhile, for those who appreciate Shine’s willingness to go against consensus, they can take heart: Shine already has almost $30K banked for his 2018 re-election bid, against two opponents who — as of August numbers — had yet to report fundraising.

Armada falls to Miami, two points out of playoffs

The Jacksonville Armada FC fell 1-0 to the NASL-leading Miami FC on Sunday night in south Florida. Despite the loss, Jacksonville is two points out of a playoff spot. The Armada collected just one point from three games this past week — a busy schedule thanks to making up matches from Hurricane Irma.

“I thought the players played very well today. I honestly think in all three games this week we have been the better team,” head coach Mark Lowry said.

While losing to the NASL-leading Miami FC Sunday night, the Jacksonville Armada is still two points out of a playoff spot.

“We are obviously very disappointed not to collect more points, but the performances lately show that this club is moving in the right direction and has a very bright future ahead.”

The loss to Miami at Riccardo Silva Stadium on the campus of Florida International University with Jacksonville getting their first look at the goal. Tony Taylor found an early opportunity in the second minute of play and fired a shot, but it was a little too high.

Miami then found their first opportunity in the 11th minute with a free kick by former Armada player, Richie Ryan. It found its way through the defenders to bounce off the woodwork straight into the hands of goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell.

It did not take long for Miami to try again, though, and put itself on the scoreboard. Jaime Chávez tapped a ball toward Stéfano Pinho, who was able to head it on the frame and into the back of the net.

Patterson-Sewell had great saves later in the first half to keep Miami from extending their lead. Kwadwo Poku sent a laser from outside the box, and Patterson-Sewell knocked it away. He was there again to save the rebound shot by Dylan Mares, but the play by Mares was called offsides.

Taylor found another opportunity in the 44th minute for the Armada. He connected with a ball from Ciarán Kilduff and blasted a shot from outside the 18-yard box, but Daniel Vega saved it in the middle of the goal.

Taylor’s effort could not get Jacksonville on the board, and the teams left the field for halftime with Miami leading 1-0.

Mares was first with an effort for Miami in the second half. He broke away from the pack in the midfield in the 53rd minute and took a shot on goal, but Patterson-Sewell was again there to knock it away.

Jacksonville had a sequence in the 64th minute to almost record a goal. Taylor and Jack Blake connected on the right wing before finding Aaron Pitchkolan and Kalen Ryden in front of the goal. Ryden played the ball to Jemal Johnson who powered it toward the net. Kilduff had the last tap to try to tuck it away, but Vega made a diving save to knock it out of play.

Zach Steinberger then tried his chance at the goal in the 81st minute. After receiving the ball from Ryden, he fired his shot toward the net, but Vega saved it.

Miami had a few late chances to double the lead. Chavez found some space to run down the field ahead of Ryden to force Patterson-Sewell to get ready for a one-on-one, but his subsequent chip at the goal went wide.

The match ended 1-0 and Miami took the three points.

“The three games in seven days has stretched the roster to its limits,” said Lowry. “At this stage of the season, with a very small roster, it has been a physically challenging week. But rest assured, we will be ready for Edmonton on Friday.”

Jacksonville continues its season with a matchup against FC Edmonton in Alberta. Kickoff is Friday at 9 p.m. ET. The match will be broadcast locally on CW17.

Jax could spend $700K+ on EOC elevators

The Duval County Emergency Operations Center is best known to Jacksonville locals from briefings during and after tropical storms.

The facility, in a former Federal Reserve building, has a retro feel — and outdated elevators that need nearly three-quarters of a million dollars to refurbish, per internal emails obtained by FloridaPolitics.com.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corporation offered a quote for this “elevator modernization,” which includes everything a modern elevator system could want: new controllers, machines, governors,  car side and hoistway side door equipment, and so on.

For this “total rebuild,” per the city’s chief of public buildings, the total cost of the two passenger lifts and one freight elevator comes out to $632,453 — exclusive of flooring, wall panels and lights.

If the city should want these amenities, the cost inches up: a rough estimate of $737,000 and change.

As an added bonus, ThyssenKrupp offers help with the city’s permitting and inspection process.

Jacksonville Bold for 9.29.17 — Wake me up when September ends

What a month for Jacksonville.

We survived it all.

We survived Hurricane Irma and its floods that turned downtown to a lake and brought the river into some of the finest homes in Avondale and San Marco.

Then, we survived the politicians’ photo ops.

We saw the Jaguars court opprobrium when some knelt for the national anthem, even as they got off to a 2-1 start — first place in the division, for now.

For Jacksonville, it’s all recovery now.

Just weeks back, it felt like recovery was a lifetime away.

Debris is clearing from roads. Power and the cable have long since returned.

There is an upshot, in a sense. We all now know a lot more about the power grid, as well as former esoterica like the politics of FEMA reimbursement.

Adversity has many consequences, with negative ones amply documented.

But if there is one positive out of all this, it’s this: we — as a whole — are more engaged, more politically-aware, and more charitable than we might have been at the end of August.

May we stay that way.

John Rutherford, Al Lawson get grant for eco-friendly buses

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) granted $1M last week to the Jacksonville Transportation Authority for low-emission buses.

Bipartisan consensus and big dollars for JTA buses this week.

Buses, per Sunshine State News, will run from the Armsdale park and ride to the new Amazon distribution center.

Rep. Rutherford worked with Rep. Lawson to make the case.

Rutherford said the federal funds for “battery electric buses … will not only strengthen our world-class transit system but also improve air quality and lower fuel costs.”

“In the long run, this will help to increase fuel standards for the city and improve the air quality for our city’s residents. I am proud to have supported this funding and look forward to working with JTA on ways to further expand Jacksonville’s clean energy initiative,” Lawson added.

Rutherford: ‘Great victory’ on snapper fishing reopen

Area anglers will be seeing red in local waters — and, unlike in previous years, they will be able to reel it in, in the form of red snappers … which can now be fished again.

Rep. Rutherford framed this Wednesday as a “great victory” for local anglers.

Snapper fishermen will be lured into the waters with a change in federal policy.

“In June,” Rutherford asserted, “I wrote a letter to the South Atlantic Fishery Council requesting to open the red snapper fishery in the South Atlantic. There were over one hundred Congressional signatories to that letter.”

“Yesterday,” Rutherford added, “the South Atlantic Council announced they passed a provision to reopen the fishery for short seasons in 2017 and 2018. This is a great victory for fishing in our state … a tremendous step toward growing our First Coast fishing economy, but I will keep fighting in Washington for our South Atlantic anglers until we have a long-term solution to properly managing all of our fishery stocks.”

Melissa Nelson: Same as Angela Corey?

The Florida Star, a Jacksonville paper tailored toward the African-American community, said that State Attorney Melissa Nelson was “the same” as predecessor Angela Corey when it came down to a high-profile murder case.

The honeymoon is over for Melissa Nelson, per The Florida Star.

“State Attorney Melissa Nelson is turning out to be no different from former State Attorney Angela Corey when it comes to prosecuting Officers that kill black citizens. This week, her office determined that the killing of unarmed black man Vernell Bing by officer Tyler Landreville was justified,” the Star wrote.

The Star added that “Tennessee v. Garner” invalidated the action, as it prohibits deadly force to stop a fleeing suspect. Of course, the officer contends the suspect had been endangering lives by driving pell-mell down urban streets at 70+ miles per hour, and that when he shot Bing, Bing was reaching into his waistband.

“This is one case that will haunt Nelson due to the attention that it has received from local activists,” the paper adds, wondering “where are our black local and state legislators on these issues?”

Delegation derby

The Clay, St. Johns and Duval Legislative Delegations have meetings slated for October.

Clay’s delegation convenes Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Location: the Clay County Administration Building, 477 Houston Street, Green Cove Springs.

The Clay Delegation will almost certainly talk Irma impacts next month.

Sen. Rob Bradley works seamlessly with Rep. Bobby Payne and Travis Cummings, allowing Clay to continually punch above its weight. This year will be especially pivotal given post-Irma needs for the growing county.

St. Johns and Duval, meanwhile, both meet that Friday.

The St. Johns County Legislative Delegation Meeting will kick off at 9 a.m. at the St. Johns County Auditorium (500 San Sebastian View, St. Augustine).

Duval’s delegation, chaired by Rep. Jay Fant, meets Friday, Oct. 20, at 1 p.m. in Jacksonville City Council chambers.

The major topic: a local bill that would require Sheriff’s Office crossing guards at certain schools.

As is always the case with delegation meetings, stakeholders and local eccentrics will show up to make their cases for priority projects; they will be allowed to speak as time permits.

Lenny Curry: ‘Stupid’ not to stand for anthem

Jacksonville Mayor Curry got national exposure via The Associated Press for his statement on the national anthem Monday, as this New York Post article shows.

Mayor Lenny Curry, pictured removing storm debris, is done talking anthem protests.

“I stand and cover my heart for the pledge and the anthem. I think it’s stupid to do otherwise,” Curry said. “The U.S. Constitution protects the right for a lot of people to do a lot of stupid things. I am a constitutional conservative, so I respect the wisdom of our Founders.”

The AP dispatch cut out the portion of the quote that had to do with storm recovery.

For Curry, not rebuking President Donald Trump on statements that play better with the GOP base than with the diverse body politic of Jacksonville has become a game of political Frogger.

By saying the protests were “stupid,” Curry nodded to the right. But he left no doubt that they were Constitutionally protected.

By Tuesday, Curry was done talking about the anthem and protests. When asked for details as to what the flight back with the team was like, he would only say it was a “nice flight.”

SPOTTED on the Oct. 2 cover of Sports Illustrated: Shad Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, related to a story on the NFL’s ‘take a knee for the anthem’ controversy this past weekend. From the story: “The protests of today are not about the anthem or the flag or the troops, or even about Donald Trump. The protesters are high-profile African-American athletes raising awareness of how lower-profile African-Americans are often mistreated by police officers.”

Shad Khan ‘appalled’ by Donald Trump

Meanwhile, one of Curry’s biggest political supporters — Shad Khan — stood beside his players during a moment of protest Sunday … with Curry in the stadium.

No regrets from Khan, who told a Jaguar that he would remember this for the rest of his life.

The wrath of Khan for Donald Trump? At the very least, a distancing.

Khan, who dropped $1 million on Trump‘s inauguration, has clearly become more comfortable with the concept of buyer’s remorse of late.

“I supported him in the campaign because I loved his economic policies and I thought, you know, politicians do a lot of stuff to get elected,” Khan said.

Khan — like many reporters — expected a pivot “to the middle.” No dice.

“But I was appalled, right after his inauguration, how things started out,” Khan said, “being more divisive and really being more polarizing on religion and immigration.”

For more on Khan, check out this strong Washington Post piece that aggregates the legacy of a wholly unique figure not just in NFL history, but American history.

“We all need to send a thank you card to President Trump,” he added. “He’s united us all in a very powerful way.”

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 a $90 million buy-in that secured a new amphitheater, a covered practice field, and club seat improvements.

Gaff gaffe

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

Local television viewers spent Friday evening watching WJXT’s footage of Jacksonville City Councilmembers Reggie Gaffney and Katrina Brown accusing local cops of racial profiling.

Gaffney had been pulled over for driving on a license plate he reported stolen in early 2016. Brown pulled up behind him to accuse the officers of racially profiling Gaffney.

Councilman Reggie Gaffney’s swearing-in; even in 2015, Katrina Brown was right behind him.

From there, things got no better. The head of the local Fraternal Order of Police urged the Councilors to apologize to the police they had maligned, or resign.

That head of the FOP, Steve Zona, wondered what the Mayor thought of this. Well, here’s the answer.

“I trust that the Sheriff and people over at JSO will do the right thing,” Curry said Tuesday on Jacksonville’s Northside, “and the process will work.”

For those looking for pyrotechnics, they weren’t to be found.

Gaffney apologized profusely at Council, while Councilwoman Brown was adamant that she did nothing wrong by asking the questions her constituents wanted to be asked.

Zona noted the apology was “heartfelt” and that “we all make mistakes.”

However, the Sheriff’s Office will still wonder about Gaffney’s lapsed memory when it came to walking into a police substation and reporting a tag stolen, then driving on the same tag. And to that end, an Integrity Unit investigation continues.

Post-Irma pollution in NW Jax

First Coast News reports on concerning flooding at a Superfund site in Northwest Jacksonville at Fairfax St. Wood Chippers.

A polluted site that has been on media and government radar for years now, the location flooded during Irma.

‘Runoff concerns’ are the latest peril for those in the Fairfax area.

The Environmental Protection Agency notes: “Due to heavy rain, some runoff concerns were identified at an on-site retention point and a washout underneath some site fencing. Samples were collected from the pond to determine whether contamination issues are present …”

A happy ending (sort of): Environmental Protection Agency samples “did not indicate any significant issues at the site from Hurricane Irma.”

The statement continues: “A surface water sample collected after the hurricane showed concentrations lower than or similar to the surface water concentrations for multiple metals measured during the Remedial Investigation.”

The site has been dormant since 2010, and the Environmental Protection Agency will clean it up eventually, FCN reports.

Irma worst ever event for Jax businesses?

The Florida Times-Union is reporting that Hurricane Irma may have been the worst ever event for Jacksonville businesses.

“A member of the board of directors for JAX Chamber said Irma is likely the biggest, single negative event to impact Jacksonville business,” the T-U notes.

Irma wreaked havoc on Jax businesses.

“I have been in Jacksonville for over 25 years working and I do not remember anything having an impact on business operations like this,” Chamber Board member Roy Driver said. “There was just nothing open.

“For 24-plus hours on what would otherwise be a normal workday — for just about the entire business community, with it being a Monday — everything was essentially shut down,” he said.

Clay catastrophe

Duval wasn’t alone in Irma impacts; Clay County may have suffered the greatest natural disaster in its history during Irma, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Gov. Rick Scott surveys damage in Middleburg.

“This was a catastrophic event for Clay County. The most significant impact that Clay County has ever felt …” said the county’s emergency director this week.

“This is going to be a long-term recovery, both the rebuild of infrastructure, the rebuild of residences and the recovery process is going to take time,” he added.

The impacts: over 12 hours of tropical storm force winds, epic creek flooding and 858 houses damaged.

“County infrastructure took a hit. There’s at least $600,000 in damage to county paved roads, about $200,000 to its dirt roads. Damage to county marinas, parks and recreational facilities is about $226,000,” the T-U report adds.

This puts hard numbers to the destruction Orange Park Republican Sen. Rob Bradley described to us in the immediate wake of the storm.

Clay County joins ‘Schools of Hope’ suit

By a 3-2 vote, the Clay County School Board voted this week to approve a lawsuit against the state of Florida — committing $25,000 to an effort joined weeks back by Duval County.

Per the Florida Times-Union: “The lawsuit is expected to question the constitutionality of the massive education bill, in part because it deals with about 70 subjects while the state constitution requires bills to deal with one topic. There are also questions about measures in the bill which are designed to steer millions of dollars from districts to charter schools and will limit school board’s oversight role with charter schools, which are independent public schools.”

Ted Cruz, SJC bound

Some high-powered national talent is headed to St. Johns County in October; U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz will join local Rep. Ron DeSantis for a county GOP fundraiser.

Pictured: Ted Cruz explaining the merits of Texas-style BBQ to Ron DeSantis.

The event: Oct. 6 at Sawgrass Country Club. The two will discuss tax reform.

VIP Meet and Greet tickets are $250; for the conservative on a budget, general admission tickets are just $100.

Expect Texas-style BBQ, a cash bar to wash it down, and a silent auction.

More money, years for FSU President John Thrasher

FSU President John Thrasher will be at FSU through 2020, and will have more money for his trouble.

John Thrasher continues to build his legacy as a university president.

“FSU trustees voted Friday to boost Thrasher’s annual salary by 7 percent to $555,560. Trustees also agreed to give him a $200,000 bonus for his performance. Last year, Thrasher was given a $100,000 bonus. Thrasher later this year will also get a 1.45 percent raise being given to all FSU employees,” reported The Associated Press.

Thrasher will also get a $400,000 bonus should he stay at FSU through 2020.

Seafood Nutrition Healthy Heart Summit

October is National Seafood Month, and the Seafood Nutrition Partnership will host its inaugural Healthy Heart Summit to promote the benefits of eating heart healthy.

October is National Seafood Month!

On Friday, Sept. 29, the half-day program will bring leaders from business, health care, and community together to discuss the importance of a heart-healthy diet for the local community, provide easy to use resources to encourage healthy dietary habits, and identify action items to support the heart health goals of the community. University of North Florida professor Judy Rodriguez will reveal results from the school’s Seafood Consumption in Northeast Florida study. It will also feature a special cooking demonstration by chef Johnny Carino.

Also to appear: Jerome Maples (Sen. Audrey Gibson’s office), Dr. Kelli Wells (Department of Health Duval County), Dr. Pamela Rama (Baptist Health), Mike Tigani (King & Prince Seafood) and Seafood Nutrition Partnership representatives.

The event is from 8 a.m. — 1 p.m. (registration and media check-in begins at 7:30 a.m.) at the Jacksonville Main Public Library, 303 N. Laura St.

JAXPORT names new CEO

Jacksonville Port Authority board members unanimously chose Eric Green as chief executive officer, reports the Florida Times-Union.

Green led the JAXPORT effort in its $484 million dredging project while expanding the port’s cargo lines. It is the third time JAXPORT promoted a person without prior CEO experience.

JAXPORT Board Chairman Jim Citrano (right) congratulates Eric Green on becoming the port authority’s CEO. Photo via WJCT.

Board member Joe York told the T-U that Green’s six months as interim CEO amounted to a successful tryout. Green, who worked at JaxPort since 2005, didn’t play it safe as interim leaders are prone to do, Green added.

Crowley Maritime sends Maria aid to Puerto Rico

Crowley Maritime Corporation is sending 3,000 loads of food, supplies and other cargo to San Juan to help with recovery from Hurricane Irma, reports Kent Justice of News 4 Jax.

Mark Miller, Crowley Maritime vice president of communications, said the company has 300 employees in Puerto Rico. All are known to be safe, he added.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking. It really is. Good friends down there. It’s really difficult to see. I can only imagine what they’re going through right now. It’s just really difficult,” Miller told WJCT. “We play a vital role in the supply chain for Puerto Rico. So we’re stepping up to work with these agencies to get the cargo where it needs to go [and] when it needs to get there. Our employees are stepping up, too. Our employees are putting together all kinds of packages that are going to go out on a vessel this weekend.”

Photo courtesy Kent Justice, WJXT.

The company is getting aid to St. Croix and St. Thomas; the U.S. Virgin Islands were also hard-hit by hurricanes this season.

Frontier Airlines adds flights to Denver, Cincinnati from Jacksonville

Low-cost airline Frontier Airlines is adding nonstop flights from Jacksonville to Denver and Cincinnati starting this spring, the airline announced this week.

“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 of Frontier Airlines, said in a statement.

As reported by WTLV, the service will start sometime in spring 2018, according to a Jacksonville International Airport spokesperson. The Denver-based air carrier has not confirmed either start dates or frequency.

Flights will be on an Airbus A320 aircraft, Frontier spokesman Jim Faulkner told First Coast News.

UberEATS hits Jacksonville; benefits Irma recovery

On Thursday midnight, Uber introduced the popular UberEATS on-demand food delivery service to Jacksonville. Initial coverage areas include downtown, San Marco, Arlington, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach.

UberEATS gives Jacksonville users access to menus of more than 100 restaurants: Dick’s Wings, Empire City Gastropub, European Street Café, Good Dough Doughnuts, Jersey Mike’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Shack Maui, Tijuana Flats, The Southern Grill, Whit’s Frozen Custard and Zaxby’s.

A full list of participating restaurants is on the UberEATS app in Jacksonville.

Hungry? UberEATS is now in Jacksonville!

To celebrate the launch, Uber is donating $25,000 to the “First Coast Relief Fund” to help residents and businesses affected by Hurricane Irma.

“The restaurant scene in Jacksonville has grown over the years, and we’re excited to work with our restaurant partners to expand their reach at the tap of a button,” said Juan Pablo Restrepo, general manager of UberEATS Florida. “When Uber launched in Florida, Jacksonville was the first city for the company to call home. Hurricane Irma’s impact has reverberated throughout this community and we are committed to helping those affected.”

For a limited time, app users can enter an “EATSJAX” promotional code to receive $5 off two UberEATS orders. Delivery is available from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week, with a $4.99 delivery fee. If the restaurant is shown as open and serving on the UberEATS app during that time, customers can place an order. Restaurants interested in joining UberEats can visit www.uber.com/restaurants to learn how to join.

 

Pete Antonacci: Amazon proposals to be as ‘incentive-bearing’ as possible

Enterprise Florida President Pete Antonacci said Thursday that pursuit of a new east coast headquarters planned by Amazon is his organization’s top priority right now, as the state’s economic development corporation coordinates bids from at least four different Sunshine State cities and encourages them to emphasize tax giveaway incentives.

Speaking to  the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Future of Florida Forum in Orlando Thursday, Antonacci said packages including financial incentives are being pulled together in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and South Florida and Enterprise Florida Inc.

Seattle-basd Amazon said it wants a second headquarters, probably on the East Coast. Amazon indicated it will spend $5 billion on the new campus and hire as many as 50,000 employees. Yet Amazon has asked for tax breaks and other incentives in its request for proposals, which are due Oct. 19.

“It’s the number one priority in my office and it’s the number one priority in a number of communities around the state,” he said at the chamber’s luncheon. “We are advising as a clearing house and we will submit to Amazon all our proposals that meet basic RFP requirements.

“In the meantime we’re working with those communities very, very closely, to make sure their proposals are as sharp, focused and incentive-bearing as we could possibly be under these circumstances,” he said. “We’ve got some great proposals.”

In Orlando, the Orlando Economic Partnership is leading the way to create a package for Amazon’s consideration, and that organization’s President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Giuliani, attending the forum, sounded encouraged. He said Orlando’s package will be offering a variety of potential locations to present both urban and suburban settings, and highlight the region’s 80,000 current high-tech jobs, and the $10 billion in transportation infrastructure projects, ranging from a new airport terminal to SunRail commuter train expansion.

“This is a great opportunity for us to showcase for the world what Central Florida has to offer,” Giuliani said later.

Human Rights Campaign: Jacksonville makes strong gains in LGBT rights

FloridaPolitics.com obtained a confidential copy of a draft version of the Human Rights Campaign’s municipal equality index.

And Jacksonville is better positioned than ever before, scoring a 67 out of a potential 100 — a clear consequence of the city adding LGBT citizens to its Human Rights Ordinance this year.

The leadership gets 4 out of a possible 5 points for its “public position on LGBT equality,” and 3 out of 5 on “pro-equality legislative efforts.”

The city loses points, by and large, in one key area: law enforcement. A total of 22 points are lost because of a lack of the LGBTQ police liaison or task force, and a reported failure to report 2015 hate crime statistics to the FBI.

In the past, there have been improvements from the draft document to the final iteration.

In the Human Rights Campaign’s 2016  Municipal Equality Index, Jacksonville earned a rating of 49 out of 100. FloridaPolitics.com reported a draft version of the MEI had Jacksonville as a 31 that year, pointing out then that key metrics were left out.

Jacksonville’s score of 67 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index — even in draft form — is much better than the city was positioned at the end of the Alvin Brown era, when it had an anemic 25 out of 100 points.

There is an emergent challenge to the HRO expansion mentioned above.

Empower Jacksonville, a group of social conservatives backed by the Liberty Counsel, is advancing a ballot measure that could lead to a challenge of the current law.

Empower Jacksonville seeks to have two ballot items in Aug. 2018. The first: a referendum to change the city’s charter to allow citizens to challenge any law via referendum.

The second measure: a straw ballot on whether or not the HRO should be subject to citizen referendum. The specific area of contention: the additions to the law this February, not the previously extant law.

Fundraising is torpid for the group, which has just $5,000 banked as of August’s finance report.

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