Lenny Curry Archives - Florida Politics

Anna Brosche discusses meeting with Lenny Curry, Sam Mousa

Jacksonville City Council President-Designate Anna Brosche was not Mayor Lenny Curry‘s first choice for Council President – a term starting later this week — according to some sources.

But the two first-term Republicans are pragmatists, and with Curry a believer in the importance of relationship building, a notable event on the Mayor’s Tuesday schedule was a meeting with Brosche and Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa.

So, in that context — how did it go?

Brosche said it was a good meeting, but in terms of potential pyrotechnics, there were little to be found.

The goal: “to establish good, open lines of communication,” with the idea of having a “great third year.”

Whether Curry backed Brosche or John Crescimbeni in the Council President race, Brosche said, was ultimately not relevant in the current context.

“You can’t make money yesterday,” Brosche said.

Specifics — such as an expected expansion to the capital improvement program budget — were not discussed.

However, on what Brosche called the “eve of transition” between one Council Presidency and the next, the incoming Council President and the Mayor established a dialogue — an important move for both as they prepare for the year ahead.

Jax Mayor’s Office reviews Downtown Investment Authority budget

The office of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry reviewed the Downtown Investment Authority budget on Tuesday; below, some highlights.

One interesting point out of this — LaVilla development plans are moving apace, with DIA working with consultants.

Also in consultant mode: the downtown parking study, as DIA is responsible for downtown parking now.

Parking revenues are down $152,000 a year, with hourly parking removed from the Water St. garage being the primary mover. Monthly parking in the space is less lucrative.

Fines and forfeitures: also down, $189,000 year over year.

Credit card fees are up, driven by facility meters and on-street meters. Another 300 electronic, credit card accepting meters are on their way as well.

In that vein, hardware and software fees are up, a function of tracking software for these devices.

Meanwhile, there is $270,000 — give or take — available in cash carryover for enhancement requests.

DIA seeks $275,000 for a capital purchase, to add to $275,000 allocated last year, for five garages — specifically entry control systems. These are not leasable, and theoretically last 20 years.

DIA also wants a new vehicle, to be dedicated to four additional Southbank properties that will bring in $12,000 a year total.

Roughly $170,000 of interest accumulated, meanwhile, is sought for historical preservation costs, which could include the Barnett Bank building.


Will the Anna Brosche era be trouble for Lenny Curry?

Just as there are some who look at a tranquil lake and assume the depths are likewise tranquil, there are those who look at a change of leadership in Jacksonville’s City Council and assume a similar tranquility.

For the previous two years, that was true. When Greg Anderson in 2015 and Lori Boyer in 2016 took over the Council Presidency, there was no disquiet in the office of Mayor Lenny Curry.

For two years, there was a calming sameness to events like the August budget consideration in the Finance Committee. While an issue here or there may have been noteworthy, by and large the Mayor’s proposed budget that he released in July ended up becoming codified by ordinance ahead of the Oct. 1 beginning of the fiscal year.

One city, one Jacksonville.

The 2017-18 Council year will be different, however. There will be more pushback.

One major reason: according to some strong backers of the Anna Brosche campaign for Council President, the Mayor’s Office (and allies) went “all in.”

All in, that is, for Council VP John Crescimbeni.

Multiple extremely credible sources have claimed that a senior staffer in the Mayor’s Office — one who deals with Council regularly — was attempting to whip votes for Crescimbeni over Brosche. While that claim was refuted off the record by said staffer, with said staffer asserting that claims of that sort were also made in the past, the narrative is clearly one believed in Council.

Other credible sources have asserted, meanwhile, that the Mayor’s Office is looking for someone to run against certain Council members who backed Brosche over Crescimbeni.

Such narratives can’t be easily refuted — not in the cauldron of gossip that is Jacksonville’s four-story City Hall, a building that once was a May Cohens department store and still does as brisk a business in insider gossip as that store did in mid-priced consumer goods back in the sepia-tinged olden days.

Narratives stick. There are those who say that a big part of a reason John Crescimbeni couldn’t get the votes of his fellow Democrats was that they feel he didn’t understand or care about their districts’ needs. Crescimbeni tried to shake that one, and got the VP slot a year before. But when it came down to running against Brosche, that didn’t fly.

As one backer said, Brosche simply cared more. Her willingness to advocate in real terms for priorities of Jacksonville City Council Districts 7 through 10 was significant … as is her personal history, one that exempts her from consideration for membership in the Good Ol’ Boys club.

So, in that context, Tuesday night is the end of an era.

Tuesday presents the last Jacksonville City Council meeting in which John Crescimbeni is in Council Leadership. And after Tuesday, Crescimbeni is marginalized on committees — but not nearly as badly as Bill Gulliford, who said that he would not serve on a standing committee in Brosche’s administration … and got his wish, despite an attempt to walk it back.

Also marginalized: Councilman Tommy Hazouri, who was described by one Councilor as “having worked harder to get Crescimbeni elected than he worked for himself.” That work, allegedly, included getting Fire Union Head Randy Wyse to pitch Crescimbeni to skeptical councilors.

Hazouri has one committee assignment next term. He wanted Finance. He didn’t get it.


The changing fortunes of people on City Council are leaving many of those previously empowered apoplectic.

One Council veteran, for example, was rendered “speechless” about committee assignments, which we reported on first last week.

Other veteran pols on the legislative body are getting dishes of comeuppance.

During a discussion last week, Hazouri was barbed by a fellow Democrat, current Rules Chair and incoming Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, a Brosche ally.

“Maybe you’ll chair a committee someday,” Dennis said to Hazouri, in that joking way that was clearly all too real to Hazouri, a man many say was expecting a position on Finance if Crescimbeni got the top job.

Likewise, a bill that normally might have been a feel-good measure of the sort everyone on Council co-sponsors because they want to Do Something became a hotbed of controversy last week in committee.

Councilman Gulliford’s bill to spend $1.5M on a six-month pilot program for opioid treatment got shelled during council panels last week, including a no vote in one committee.

Finance Vice Chair in waiting Danny Becton referred to the opioid program as “taking dollars and throwing them out at something that is not clearly defined.”

“We’re supposed to just say yes to the bill sponsor, but two weeks ago I was getting schooled [by him] … on doing this through the budget process,” Becton said, referring to his bill putting 15 percent of future budget increases into pension relief that got torched in Finance a fortnight ago.

That bill was re-referred, re-worked and deferred — and it will certainly find more traction on Finance in July under the committee’s new configuration.

“Are we tracking the source? Once we bring the individual back from the doorstep of death, we need to ask where the drugs are coming from,” Dennis asserted, characterizing Gulliford’s bill as one longer on proposed hard costs than tangible benefits.

Gulliford is the best operator on Council, in terms of changing debates within the rules. But when the crowd turns on you, it turns on you. And while he may get this bill through to the Mayor’s desk, committees taught him that, for at least the next year, his incontrovertible influence on Council is on the wane.

And in reality, there is this to consider: Tuesday’s meeting may well represent the last hurrah, in a meaningful sense, of those Councilors originally elected in 2011.

While there is no need to bring an autograph book Tuesday night, there will be those who will be looking at the scoreboard by the end of the evening.

And a few people, metaphorically at least, will be staring at the lights.

And while the Mayor’s Office has veto power, and the ability to sit on contracts it doesn’t want to execute, the lingering feeling among Council members was that a power play was made — and failed.

While those on the winning side want to be civil, they also are not afraid to assert prerogatives as the “policy-making body.”

As with all declarations of resolve, it will be interesting to see if this one holds up, and what it means through the summer’s budget process in Council.

$11M in HUD money for Jacksonville for FY 2017

Jacksonville is in line to receive just over $11M in money from Housing and Urban Development for FY 2017, per a letter from HUD dated Jun. 15.

Over half of that sum — $5.661M — will come in through Community Development Block Grants, a category that the Donald Trump Administration has questioned.

This is down significantly from the $17M figure stated by a city employee at a press event promoting CDBGs.

All told, the city has secured almost $400M in CDBGs since 1975.

HOME Investment Partnerships offer another $2.258M.

HOPWA — Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS — deliver another $2.644M.

And Emergency Solutions Grant money comes out to $506,000.

For locals who made a call for CDBGs, such as Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, this award letter means that — at least for another year — federal money will boost Jacksonville’s budget to deal with populations that need the help.

Given President Trump’s position on these grants, the Curry Administration was agnostic on the future of these programs when asked earlier this year.

“As long as the program exists and funds are available, we will utilize them,” spokeswoman Marsha Oliver said.

Oliver stressed that the mayor was not taking a position on whether the program should or shouldn’t be in existence; however, as budget discussions loom, Curry’s financial team likely will have to factor in the current uncertainty from the White House.

Lenny Curry out of U.S. Conference of Mayors

The United States Conference of Mayors has set itself up as a counterweight to President Donald Trump on issues ranging from Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Accord to military spending.

Last weekend’s resolutions against military spending were especially interesting, with the Conference issuing resolutions “calling for hearings on real city budgets needed and the taxes our cities send to the federal military budget” and “opposition to military spending.”

We asked Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry for his thoughts on the matter, and the response proved to be more illuminating than the resolutions.

“Mayor Curry is not a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He maintains his support of the President’s commitment to keeping America safe,”said Marsha Oliver, Director of Public Affairs for the Mayor’s Office.

For those watching closely, this is a stunning development, with Curry being the most prominent big-city mayor to exempt himself from the mayoral group.

Apparently, that exemption had happened some months back, though information was not disseminated about it, despite questions about differences between Curry’s positions and the conference.

On Monday afternoon, Curry explained the reasons for leaving the group, which happened in late 2016 or early 2017, he said.

Curry wanted to know if the Mayor’s Office had paid the invoice, and it had not — so given the Conference’s political positions and lack of value add for his office, he didn’t think that membership was a “good use of taxpayer dollars.”



Lori Boyer to address Southside Business Men’s Club Wednesday

Jacksonville City Council President Lori Boyer will gavel out her last meeting Tuesday evening; on Wednesday, she will speak to constituents.

The scene: a lunchtime meeting at the Southside Business Men’s Club, held at the San Jose Country Club.

For Boyer, this year as City Council President has been one full of accomplishments that will be remembered after she is termed out of office in 2019.

The long and winding road of getting pension reform through the voters via referendum, then through the unions in collective bargaining, then through the City Council to ratify the deals — that was completed under Boyer’s watch.

That closed the extant defined benefit pension plans to new hires, creating a new defined contribution plan for them, a mechanism which  — when combined with a future revenue source via a sales tax extension that kicks in by 2030 — offers some budget relief that will go to infrastructure and new hires for long-suffering city departments.

Another hot-button issue resolved on Boyer’s watch: securing LBGT rights, via an expanded Human Rights Ordinance.

That issue had plagued city government for most of the decade, with failed expansion attempts in 2012 and 2016. Boyer was able to ensure the integrity of the process, handling the heated discussions from proponents and opponents in a way that codified protections for LGBT people that didn’t impact religious institutions — a key worry of the religious right.

Expect that Boyer will address these issues Wednesday, along with a key initiative of hers during her term: waterway activation, part of Jacksonville’s long-standing yet eternally thwarted desire to make usage of waterways in the way other cities do.

In addition to talking about the past and present, Boyer may be asked to address the future — such as a City Council under the control of President-Designate Anna Brosche, who dispatched the chosen candidate of Boyer and the Mayor’s Office in a contentious election for Council President.

Jax Mayor’s Office plows through Finance & Administration budget

The office of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry continued its budget review Monday, with a romp through the Finance and Administration budget.

The department is more fully-staffed than it was two years ago, when it was “decimated,” per Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, yet points for discussion abounded.

As is often the case with these hearings, the news bubbles up via anecdotal tidbits.

Mousa noted that there was slight under-performance in payouts for contracts for Jacksonville Small and Emerging Businesses; awards, it was revealed, were on track.

As well, the Jacksonville Beach pier is under contract for review and repair after Hurricane Matthew damage. There may be revenues coming in next year, if a contractor reveals that some of the structure is safe enough for businesses to return.

A discussion followed of converting older files from microfiche to electronic format; no reliable estimate could be provided of that cost, which remains theoretical.

Motor Vehicle Inspection fees are adversely affected by a downtick in Vehicles for Hire revenue (suspending taxi cab medallion inspection fees, as a result of inconclusive rule making relative to Uber/Lyft in Council), which means money to prop that subfund up is coming from the General Fund.

“We really need to make a decision,” CFO Mike Weinstein said.

Money manager fees are up in pension funds; treasurer Joey Greive deemed that to be a “good problem to have,” as pension funds perform well of late.

There are apparently six years of records related to grants, dating back to the Peyton administration, that need to be scanned in. The company contracted to do such went bankrupt; there isn’t the manpower to do such in-house. Mousa urges outsourcing the work, as it would be cheaper than hiring a new employee with benefits and the like.

The department has been doing a lot of additional work, including “cleanup,” in capital projects; the desire is to have an extra FTE to oversee the end of capital projects and ensure that funds are swept and so on for clearer accounting.




Jake Godbold, Lenny Curry, and the ‘strong mayor’ model

Last Thursday night, a former Jacksonville mayor gave his blessing to a power move from the current mayor.

Jake Godbold’s remarks, delivered to the Jacksonville Historical Society, validated current Mayor Lenny Curry in ways that need to be fully appreciated before they hit the memory hole.

Curry told the Florida Times-Union editorial board that he was “prepared to take the Landing… I’m prepared for the city to have it and to begin in a very public way determining what its best and highest use is … We’ve got a plan internally to put the screws and keep pushing this.”

Curry has an ally: former Mayor Jake Godbold, who noted Thursday night that “we built the Landing” and he doesn’t “like it to think it was sold to some guy who built strip malls.”

“Take it back,” Godbold said. “Let’s do something about it.”

While that was the big news item to come out of the Godbold remarks, his historical perspective is worth noting also, as Godbold — whose personal history is intertwined with the development of Jacksonville into a modern city itself — discussed the “strong mayor” model, upon which Jacksonville is predicated.

When Godbold took over from Hans Tanzler, he quickly reacted to a lack of public works action during the Tanzler era. Road projects, for example, were almost non-existent.

Godbold and his initiatives — the Riverwalk and the Landing among them — were controversial in their time. Yet, for Jacksonville to grow into the city it is today, Godbold had to be what he called a “powerful mayor.”

When Godbold came in, the plainspoken Northsider was not Chamber enough for some. By the end, though, everyone kissed his ring.

Not bad for someone who didn’t want to be Mayor.

As opposed to Godbold, who first assumed the Mayor’s Office after Tanzler resigned to run for Governor, Curry definitely wanted to be Mayor — and spent years planning the run before jumping in to his first campaign.

Curry was helped, of course, by the donor class — and especially by Peter Rummell, who told the Florida Times-Union that Alvin Brown had “wimped out,” ahead of Curry entering the race.

Curry was elected, and quickly made some changes — among them, reconfiguring city boards and commissions with people who reflected his philosophy. And infrastructure projects, ranging from septic tank removal to stadium improvements, that would actually put the city on the move. And, of course, pension reform — closing the defined benefit plans to new hires, securing money for paydown down the road, and stopping the bleeding before an FY 18 hit that would have been cataclysmic.

There are many differences between Godbold and Curry. But a major similarity: an understanding of the Mayor’s Office as one that puts the city on the move. And that is, ultimately, the “strong mayor” model.

Ashley Moody adds a political committee to her Attorney General bid arsenal

Former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, who filed in the Republican Primary for Attorney General this month, also launched a political committee this month.

The name: “Friends of Ashley Moody.

Moody has certain tailwinds behind her, including backing by current Attorney General Pam Bondi, who basically endorsed Moody even before she entered the race.

Moody has one opponent on the GOP side thus far: Jacksonville state Rep. Jay Fant.

Fant has $79,575 in his campaign account; of that sum, $8,000 came from Fant, and $3,000 came from his political committee, “Pledge This Day,” which raised $9,000 in May.

Contributions mostly came from Northeast Florida. However, a very important northeast Florida Republican won’t do anything to help him: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

We asked an advisor to Curry if the mayor was going to overlook criticisms Fant made of him at a local Republican Party meeting and help Fant out. The answer was short and brutal.

“Not a chance.”

Without Curry’s blessing, it’s going to be difficult for Fant to compete with the resources that will be at Moody’s disposal.


Jacksonville Bold for 6.23.17 — New blood rising

The two most powerful people in Jacksonville politics starting in July: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Council President Anna Brosche.

The two have similarities: introverted personalities, CPAs, Republicans in their mid-40s.

And they have differences — which will soon need resolution.

There are those who lined up with Brosche in the Council presidency race who allege that one of Curry’s senior staff twisted arms to get people to support John Crescimbeni. There are also those who claim Tommy Hazouria Curry ally like Crescimbeni despite being a senior Democrat, had the head of the fire union making calls for Crescimbeni in a classic hell-freezes-over moment.

Brosche, in short, has no incentive to play ball. Allegedly.

Smart folks in City Hall will watch what happens July 17, when Curry drops his budget, and in August, when a reconfigured Finance Committee makes its tweaks to the document … with Sam Mousa and Mike Weinstein from the Mayor’s Office reminding those on hand how the game was played the first two years.

Will the new blood on Finance care? And will Curry’s allies have enough juice?

Of course, Council can’t sign contracts — that’s the mayor’s role. Whatever tension might exist between Council Leadership, and the Mayor’s Office (and the pressure inside Council itself) will need resolution — otherwise, it will be a quotable, newsworthy third year for Lenny Curry … which would not have been the case had Crescimbeni prevailed.

Lots of City Hall in this edition, but there is other news as well. Including a congressman sticking close to President Trump

John Rutherford doesn’t worry about Trump/Russia connection

On Tuesday in Jacksonville, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford — an ally of Donald Trump — discussed the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the parallel investigations of the Trump Administration.

On issue after issue, no daylight between White House and John Rutherford.

“I want them to look at Russia’s attempt to interject themselves into our election process through cyberactivity and all that,” Rutherford said, “but I don’t see any collusion, I don’t think they’re going to find any collusion. It’s been almost six months now.”

“If they were going to find collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, I think it would have already been uncovered. So I’m not concerned at all about that. And I’m also not concerned about this idea that somehow … whatever the conversation was with [former FBI Director James] Comey, obstruction of justice,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford believes that much of the maelstrom around this story is politically motivated.

“Not the investigation that’s dealing with the cyberattack. Obviously, that occurred; we know it occurred; we know it’s been occurring. In fact,” said Rutherford, “we have to address not only the Russian hacking and others — China, others — who hacked not only our voting system but also our electrical grids and all sorts of attacks we’re experiencing.”

New blood rising

Was the fix in? Some in Jacksonville’s City Hall claim a quid pro quo was in play when President-Designate Brosche announced her new committee assignments.

The big takeaway: four African-American Democrats backing her for the presidency ended up on the Finance Committee.

Anna Brosche will be a change agent in the Council presidency.

The priorities of their historically underserved communities will take a prominent place in the budget process, as the city digests its “budget relief” to come. The four members will be a decisive bloc in the process, signaling a shift from previous years.

There is grumbling, of course, from some in City Hall about these picks: off-record comments about “deals” and the like. Whatever the case, though, it worked out in the short term. Brosche got the presidency, and African-American Democrats will call the shots on Finance.

The big losers: Brosche’s opponent, John Crescimbeni, along with key backers Tommy Hazouri and Bill Gulliford — the latter of which vowed early on that he would not serve on a standing committee under Brosche — and that came to pass.

Gulliford noted that he is “conspicuously absent” from committees.

“I offered my services,” Gulliford said, “but I guess she didn’t need me … time for new blood, I guess.”

Offices are being moved. Seating is being shuffled. And the good ol’ boys are having a bad time so far.

Lenny’s Landing

Curry made it clear to the Florida Times-Union editorial board Wednesday that he wants the Jacksonville Landing back under city control.

The riverfront mall, a novelty in 1987, is an eyesore in 2017.

In 1987, the Landing and Rick Astley were among the novelties.

He said he’s made “soft offers” to buy the buildings, but the owners have “drawn a line in the sand.”

“We’ve got a plan internally to put the screws and keep pushing this,” Curry said during a meeting with the Times-Union editorial board. “The city ought to have that property now and be working a plan to find the best and highest use for it, maybe with a private entity, perhaps not.”

Opioid apocalypse

The opioid overdose epidemic continues unabated in Jacksonville, with more details coming out on the city’s strategy to address it.

911 calls for overdoses: up 3x in two years, with 421 this February. $4M of a $1.1B budget for transport, and more money for Narcan.

The proposed plan: $1.5M for a program called “Project Save Lives.”

Bill Gulliford will move to Montana once he leaves Council in 2019. Some of his colleagues will miss him more than others.

A measure of Gulliford’s declining stroke in Council was to be found during committee discussion of the bill; while it got through the panels. Gulliford was buffeted by criticism that bordered on the personal, especially by Finance Chair-Designate Garrett Dennis and Finance Vice Chair-Designate Danny Becton.

What do they pay you to do?

Community Rehabilitation Center, the non-profit run by Councilman Reggie Gaffney, is being sued by a whistleblower who asserts she had to deal with HIV-positive clients without state-mandated training.

Gaffney ducked responsibility, saying that staff trained people, despite the plaintiff arguing that she went to Gaffney but got no recourse — and ended up fired for her trouble.

Reggie Gaffney works Doyle Carter during a meeting in 2016.

Gaffney’s cover story? He was too busy with City Council to handle CRC business. However, Gaffney managed to make $90,000 a year while on City Council — working 50 hours a week, according to CRC’s 2016 tax return.

When we asked Gaffney about these seeming discrepancies Tuesday afternoon, specifically how it was that he was able to spend his “time being a City Councilman,” while pulling down $90,000 a year for a 50-hour workweek, Gaffney offered a “no comment” before asserting that he works “80 hours a week, seven days a week.”

Responsibility for training, he said, rested with his HR person and his staff.

“I do know this: last 24 years, I probably hired 500 or 600 [staffers], and we’ve trained them all the same,” Gaffney said earlier Tuesday.

JEA to move HQ

WOKV reports that JEA has finally worked out a plan to get out from under the JEA Tower, an older building in need of tens of millions of dollars of repair work.

That plan: a land swap.

A view of the tower’s top from Jacksonville City Hall.

“We commissioned a consultant to look at the study for us and look at some of the options that we have for our Downtown campus, and between their work and ours, we’ve concluded the best path forward is to build a new campus,” said chief financial officer Melissa Dykes Tuesday.

The land is adjacent to the Duval County Courthouse, in an area of downtown characterized by sparse, outmoded development and blight.

JTA on the move

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is making some audacious moves that they hope will offer regional transportation solutions.

Electric buses: part of the conceptual future.

Richard Clark of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority contacted Mayor Curry for support on a federal grant application last week.

“JTA is submitting a Low-No grant application for electric buses that will help serve the Amazon facility on the Northside. This will be the beginning of JTA’s electric vehicle/bus fleet,” Clark wrote in a June 14 email.

The program, asserted Clark, will use JEA’s “Solar Smart” program, which “ensures the powering of the buses will be from their solar system … 100 percent renewable.”

Pols and dignitaries pick up shovels at a long-awaited groundbreaking.

Meanwhile, JTA had a groundbreaking this week on its Regional Transportation Center.

The JTA center, to be constructed in Jacksonville’s historic LaVilla neighborhood, will accommodate Greyhound, Uber, Megabus, the Skyway, First Coast Flyer and other modes of travel, in what is designed to be a regional focus.

Greyhound will go online in January 2018; construction of the whole 50,000 square foot center will be completed by the fall of 2019, a process abetted by JTA having “$33 million in pocket” for the work on the $50M project, one that is expected to turn LaVilla into a “live, work and play” center for this part of town.

Jacksonville mulls raising emergency reserve

Some Jacksonville City Councilors wanted to boost the city’s emergency reserve from 5 percent to 6 percent in January, but were advised to hold off until pension reform was finalized.

With that herculean task complete, the Mayor’s Office is set, via its new budget, to raise that level — though the operating reserve would be cut to 7 percent from 8 percent, meaning reserve levels would be the same.

What’s more thrilling than a discussion of sound accounting practices?

A big story of the budget season has been the Mayor’s Office cautioning various departments that budget relief does not mean a spending spree, with some grousing about Councilors wanting to dip into the general fund for spending outside the budget process.

In that context, the proposed raise of the emergency reserve is significant, in seeing what the priorities of the Curry Administration will be going forward.

Eight ain’t enough

Term limits were imposed by voter plebiscite on the Jacksonville City Council decades back, yet Councilman Matt Schellenberg believes that institutional knowledge outweighs voter predilection.

Don’t throw shade at Matt Schellenberg; his chapeau has that covered.

To that end, he introduced — for the second time in just over a year — legislation to repeal two-term limits.

It would be for councilors, School Board members, and constitutional officers — except for the Mayor.

The legislation cleared committees February but was pulled, as the referendum would have competed with the pension reform referendum on the August ballot, and the Best Bet slots referendum on the November ballot.

With those referendums in the rearview mirror, it’s all-clear to bring back the bill.

The sub proposes three four-year terms, rather than the abolishment of term limits.

“In four years, do we change it to four, maybe,” Council VP John Crescimbeni quipped.

Reform coming for Jax children’s programs

The Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey — two programs that serve “at-hope” Jacksonville children, with the idea of keeping them away from temptations of crime and vice, are under scrutiny, Mayor Curry told us this month.

“We are beyond tweaking when it comes to these programs we deliver to children, and big reforms are coming,” Curry emphasized.

Lenny Curry reads to a child in 2015, during Jax Journey fact-finding tour.

“We’re working through exactly what those reforms are going to look like. I will have reached a decision inside of two weeks.”

“I’m looking at making sure that we have programs that are very clear and meeting the needs of specific ‘at-hope youth’ that are the solution to prevention and intervention,” Curry said, using a phrase he first used two weeks prior when announcing $988,000 of new money available for youth summer camps.

“We’ve got to be very clear about how we deliver those services and make sure we’re getting results, and make sure that the management team is aggressive in terms of pursuing those goals, and that the whole governance structure is aggressive as well, and hold them accountable,” Curry said.

The Curry Administration is not averse to re-orgs: the Neighborhoods Department was reinstated in Curry’s term after being phased out in the previous administration.

Hot hot hot

Folks in the real estate game talk about how hot Jacksonville real estate is — at least in the areas of town where people actually want to live. And external confirmation came this month via MarketWatch, which deemed Jacksonville the seventh hottest real estate market in the country.

The survey “looked at 120 metropolitan areas that had at least 100,000 single-family homes and condos. Those that scored the highest combined affordable homes with access to jobs.”

Jacksonville’s “tale of two cities” narrative has long since become a cliché. But — at least for now — there are “great expectations” for Jacksonville’s real estate market. Location, location, location.

Riverkeeper decries dredge; water is wet

The long-awaited dredging of the St. Johns River to 47 feet near JAXPORT delights most politicians, yet appalls the St. Johns Riverkeeper.

On Thursday, the Riverkeeper decried the “deep dredge runaround” of late from pro-dredging forces in the press.

Riverkeeper wants Jax to hedge on dredge, but momentum is with the dig.

The news release describes dredging advocates as “frustrated by the lack of funding support” for the project backed by port advocates, an interesting tack to take in light of $17.5M in federal money and support for the project from the state as well.

The frustration, the Riverkeeper says, resulted in a scaling down of the project from 13 to 11 miles.

The Riverkeeper also cites evidence of contravened transparency, including a lack of public hearing, a lack of local funding or a cost estimate meeting the Riverkeeper’s muster, no analysis of the new specs from the Army Corps of Engineers, and an ongoing lawsuit from the Riverkeeper.

Meanwhile, projections of jobs and other economic impacts are deemed to be overblown.

Bring a checkbook to the Yacht Club

Save the date!

On June 29, Jacksonville’s Florida Yacht Club will be about more than yachts: the exclusive location will hold a fundraiser for one of Duval’s own sons as he mounts a statewide campaign for Attorney General.

From the FOP to the Florida Yacht Club, Jay Fant hustles for votes and ducats.

State Rep. Jay Fant‘s event, which promises “fellowship” and an opportunity to “hear about the campaign,” runs from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

The biggest name on the host committee: former Jacksonville City Council President Greg Anderson, who may be double-booked that evening, as the installation of new officers for the Jacksonville City Council will be held at 6 p.m. June 29 at the Times-Union Center.

Contributions are to be made at attendees’ “discretion.”

In May, Fant showed some fundraising momentum with the Northeast Florida donor class.

Fant emerged with $79,575 of new money; of that sum, $8,000 came from Fant, and $3,000 came from his political committee, “Pledge This Day,” which raised $9,000 in May.



Save the date: Clay Yarborough fundraiser

State Rep. Yarborough hosts a high-profile fundraiser for his House District 12 re-election campaign Tuesday, June 27, beginning 5 p.m. at the Jacksonville offices of Foley & Lardner, One Independent Dr., Suite 1300. Guests include State Sens. Aaron BeanRob Bradley, and Travis Hutson; State Reps. Cord Byrd, Paul Renner, Cyndi Stevenson, Travis Cummings and Jason Fischer; Jacksonville City Councilman Gulliford and Marty Fiorentino, among others.

Bean named 2017 Child Advocate of Year

The Fernandina Beach Republican was awarded Northeast Florida Pediatric Society’s (NEFPS) 2017 Child Advocate of the Year. This award recognizes support and commitment to pediatric medicine and the delivery of quality health care to the children of Florida.

Aaron Bean receives Northeast Florida Pediatric Society’s (NEFPS) 2017 Child Advocate of the Year award.

“As a longtime advocate for pediatric health care and a former chairman of the Senate Health Policy Committee, I understand the importance of constantly working to improve the health of our children and making sure all of Florida’s youth have access to exceptional pediatric care,” Bean said in a statement.

Volunteers needed for July 5 Beach Cleanup

Keep Jacksonville Beautiful and the City of Jacksonville join Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol to call for volunteers for its annual July 5 Beaches Cleanup following the Independence Day holiday. From 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., volunteers will be given litter collection bags and gloves at Atlantic Boulevard at the ocean, Beach Boulevard at the ocean and 16th Avenue South at the ocean to remove litter and debris along the shoreline, weather permitting. Participants must be at least 18 or accompanied by an adult, should wear sturdy footwear and sun protection, and should bring their own drinking water. For more information, call Keep Jacksonville Beautiful at (904) 255-8276 or the Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol at (904) 613-6081.

Downtown Jax rising

More than dozen projects in the works for Downtown Jacksonville. Some are under construction, while others are moving through the approval and planning process.

According to the Jacksonville Daily Record, projects include: The Lofts at LaVilla, a 130-unit apartment project (30 percent pre-leased) near the Prime Osborn Convention Center; Laura Street Trio, planned to have a Courtyard by Marriott hotel, bodega, café, restaurant, rooftop bar and retail space; Barnett Bank building, with nearly $1 million in construction permits are pending for the project that will house about 100 market-rate apartments, a ground-floor bank and retail space.

Other projects are Lofts at Monroe, which begin August in La Villa. Plans call for a five-story, 108-unit affordable housing complex marketed to people making $29,000 a year or less.

Elena Flats is one of more than a dozen revitalization projects in one stage or another in Downtown Jacksonville.

Developer Mike Balanky wants to turn a Downtown Cathedral District block into a mixed-use project, featuring 115 to 120 apartments, and retail space at the former Community Connections, Inc. building. Vista Brooklyn is a rooftop pool and beer garden to include 14,000 square feet of retail space, 308 apartments, and an eight-story parking garage. Doro District will transform a vacant industrial building at Forsyth Street and A. Philip Randolph Boulevard into an entertainment complex. Elena Flats, one of just three remaining Downtown apartment buildings constructed in the 20 years after the Great Fire of 1901, is being restored to its original historic state.

Following loss, Armada goes back to work against Puerto Rico FC for Heritage Night

Following a loss in Miami Saturday that dropped the Armada eight points behind the first-place team from South Florida and into third in the NASL table, Kartik Krishnaiyer reports that Jacksonville gets back to work this Saturday against Puerto Rico. For that game, the club will celebrate Puerto Rico Heritage Night. Kickoff is set 6 p.m. at Hodges Stadium on the UNF Campus.

This will be the third meeting in history between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico, and the first in the 2017 North American Soccer League Spring Season. Puerto Rico FC is in last place in the league and if Jacksonville is going to make a final run at the Spring title with four games left they must win this game.

Music from local Puerto Rican music group, Renacer Borincano, will be filling the stands at Hodges Stadium. Fans are encouraged to bring guiros, campanas, panderos, shekeres, and other Puerto Rican instruments to the match and join in the mix of Bomba and Plena music during halftime.

The concourse concessions will be featuring Boricua and Taino Puerto Rican beer for sale. Concessions will also be cooking empanadillas and alcapurrias for those who want a taste of Puerto Rico on this branded theme night.

Also, several Jacksonville Jaguars rookies will be attending as part of the pre-match coin toss. After warmups, fans will have the special opportunity to meet the rookies and get their autographs along the grandstand fence. This is third successive year the Jaguars and Armada have had coordinated event at a soccer match.

Community First Credit Union will be holding a contest before kickoff to upgrade four lucky fans’ seats to the VIP suite at Hodges Stadium. Fans can enter to win at the Community First Credit Union table on the concourse. The lucky winners will experience the exciting action like never before with all-inclusive food and beverages, gifts, and comfortable accommodations inside the VIP suite.

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