Lenny Curry Archives - Florida Politics

Jacksonville Bold for 8.18.17 — Are we kingmakers?

Gov. Rick Scott pitched his tax-related ballot initiative in Jacksonville this week. By his side was House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

That was no coincidence.

All smiles for Speaker Richard Corcoran, Gov. Rick Scott in Dirty Duval this week.

Corcoran was there to support the plan — but clearly, he was also there to make his presence known to a Jacksonville press corps often obtuse when it comes to statewide issues and pols.

Corcoran was quippy, making jokes about how he’d be a “horrible statewide candidate” since he couldn’t feign enthusiasm about teams outside of Tampa. And he was relatable, extolling Mayor Lenny Curry with specificity. In turn, Curry extolled Corcoran for his consistent political philosophy.

Democratic candidates for Governor have been playing in the Duval sandbox (Gwen Graham primarily, though Andrew Gillum also has shown up). However, the expectation is that Jacksonville will mean much more in GOP primaries and it’s interesting to see how everyone is playing it.

Adam Putnam has been through the area off and on since declaring his candidacy, and he can always count on coverage, though it’s hard to think of anyone in the local press corps who really “gets” Putnam or gets particularly excited about covering him.

Jack Latvala was through here earlier this month to meet with political allies at the Fraternal Order of Police.

In statewide general elections, Democrats don’t make aggressive plays here (see, Patrick Murphy 2016, Charlie Crist 2014, Alex Sink 2010). In part, it’s because the kind of milquetoast, vaguely center-left campaigns run are tailored for the I-4 Corridor, not for Jacksonville’s brand of Dems.

It will be, in 2018, a Republican year. And expect every Republican with a shot to come through and kiss Curry’s ring.

He has multiple friends in this race, and expect Curry to let the process play out before he endorses.

November sentencing for Corrine Brown

On Wednesday, motions filed by former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown for a new trial and acquittal were denied, setting the stage for a November sentencing.

Brown’s motion for a new trial was predicated on a claim that a discharged juror was incorrectly removed.

Sad times for Corrine Brown, who may be gone in November.

Judge Timothy Corrigan rejected that premise: “Corrine Brown is entitled to a fair trial with an impartial jury that reaches a verdict in accordance with the law. That is what she received.”

“I determined beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no substantial possibility that he could base his decision on the sufficiency of the evidence and the Court’s instructions,” Corrigan added.

Regarding the acquittal motion, Corrigan said that “Suffice it to say there was more than sufficient evidence to justify the jury’s verdict on each count of conviction.”

Brown’s contention was that she was careless with her finances, leaving herself open for exploitation by her former co-defendant and chief of staff. However, Corrigan said the evidence said otherwise — that Brown was active in the scheme to defraud.

Confederate monuments to go?

Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche seeks the removal of Jacksonville’s Confederate monuments in the wake of Charlottesville. The Jacksonville Civic Council backs her play.

The mayor thinks Jacksonville has some bigger issues than statues, meanwhile. And Brosche’s Council colleagues … well, let’s just say there is no consensus on this one yet.

Will the Confederate monument issue be as divisive as the HRO discussion was?

Those close to Curry have their concerns. One person wondered why this had to be hot-shotted in the way he believes it has been, when a more deliberate, less headline-grabbing process would have been more appropriate.

Regardless of timing, the band-aid has been ripped off. Jacksonville will have its own dialogue on Confederate reliquary.

For our writers, that means readers. For city officials, including those charged with public safety, more existential challenges — such as activists on the left and on the neo-Confederate side — are posed.

Mayor warns of ‘chatter’ from Confederate enthusiasts

During a Jacksonville press gaggle Tuesday, Curry warned of “chatter” heard by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in the wake of Brosche‘s proposal to remove Confederate monuments.

‘Chatter’ from Confederate enthusiasts concerns Mayor Lenny Curry.

Curry commented in the wake of questions posed to Gov. Rick Scott and him regarding the proposed removal of these monuments — a proposal fraught with controversy locally, with that controversy even extending to the Council.

“I do think it’s important when we talk about public safety to recognize that how this is pursued in our community is important,” Curry said.

“I get briefed by the Sheriff regularly. I can tell you right now from discussions with him, based on Council’s wanting to outright say they want to remove these — there’s chatter from these outside groups. People in Charlottesville are already talking about coming to Jacksonville. We want to keep those groups out of our city, and we want to work together as a community to have a civil discourse.”

“I’m not proposing we remove these monuments,” Curry said. “Certainly, if the public wants to have that conversation — now the Council President has said this is her priority to remove them.”

“I urge the Council to have that discussion, that debate, Whatever they decide, I’ll evaluate it when it lands on my desk at that time,” Curry said, refraining from a commitment to sign or veto the bill when asked.

Brosche addressed Curry’s comments later Tuesday afternoon, saying that she’s “kicked off a process for defining an orderly and respectful solution for consideration by the Council and Mayor. I hope the community can allow that process to work.”

Spotted — Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown at this weekend’s annual Congressional Black Caucus Institute’s policy conference in Tunica, Mississippi hosted by Mississippi Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson.

Hate mail hits Council President’s inbox

More fallout still from the proposal to remove Confederate monuments, in the form of emails to the Council President.

One such email purported to be from a senior administrator at a local university which, it turns out, had a cybersecurity breach that this episode uncovered.

Anna Brosche is in the middle of the maelstrom, yet undeterred.

“I find your caving-in to nasty commie anarchist hebes and their black jungle-bunny friends to be repulsive,” the email wrote.

“You are an Asian!  You don’t belong here. You aren’t from here. You just can’t cave-in to these sorry people and screw everyone else. You should not even be on the city council,” the email added, saying “liberals and their n*** allies are making you look bad.”

We asked Brosche her thoughts.

“While I’ve received an email with a closing salutation of ‘FU,’ that was the worst email so far. It does not change my position either way,” Brosche said.

Red light cameras to go

Good news for those who hate red light cameras in Jacksonville; this is the last year for them, per Sheriff Mike Williams.

The technology isn’t where it needs to be, Williams said.

Red-light cameras soon to be extinct in Jacksonville, says Sheriff Mike Williams.

“That contract will end in December. We wanted to add crash avoidance to a number of intersections in Jacksonville,” Williams said, “but the technology just isn’t there yet.”

“That was the appeal of having a red-light camera to me. If we can’t do that, we know from the data that it’s not really reducing crashes in the intersections, maybe we just let this contract sunset and take a look at it years down the road,” Williams said.

One suspects that may be many, many years down the road.

White males abound on Jax boards and commissions

The slogan du jour: One City, One Jacksonville. But the city’s boards and commissions are mostly white and male. However, that could change soon.

Of 332 people currently serving, 65 percent are male — a number not substantially different between City Council appointees (64 percent male) and appointees from other parties, such as the Mayor (66 percent).

Seventy percent of all appointees: Caucasian. The percentage of Council representatives is even higher: 80 percent, per the most recent Boards and Commissions diversity report.

This ratio holds true, more or less, no matter who is in office.

Jacksonville City boards and commissions have an overabundance of white dudes.

And some would contend that needs to change.

On Wednesday morning, Brosche held a public-notice meeting to that end.

“The meeting is intended to increase awareness of opportunities to serve in hopes of broadening the pool of candidates that apply,” Brosche said.

“I will always choose the most qualified candidate among the pool of applicants that apply; I’d like to have a ‘pool’ of candidates larger than one application,” Brosche added.

Brosche has made an active push in diversity/social justice initiatives, as seen by her push to remove Confederate monuments from public display in Jacksonville just this week.

JEA nuclear deal safe from failed project fallout

Despite a major blow to the nuclear power industry this week, JEA is still on track to add nuclear to its fuel mix around 2020.

After a South Carolina nuclear project was scuttled Monday, the Waynesboro, Georgia, plants being built by Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia became the only active nuclear construction project in the country.

The owners of the dead South Carolina project pointed to Westinghouse Electric Company’s recent bankruptcy filing as the culprit. The Toshiba-owned company was contracted to construct the new nuclear reactors and was also at one point the contractor for the Georgia plants.

JEA has a 20-year agreement in place to purchase nuclear power from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia plants.

JTA autonomous vehicles move to test track

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s autonomous vehicle program is progressing apace, and the next step: a test track.

Emails between city officials reveal that track may be in one of the highest-visibility areas in the city.

A Friday email from Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa laid it out.

Autonomous vehicles: The time is now, per JTA.

Mousa wrote that “the JTA has approached the City about utilizing a section of asphalt pavement (driveway) in the Sports Complex as a test track for their autonomous vehicle program. The driveway is located south of and adjacent to Lot K, and controlled for the City by SMG. The City, SMG and the JTA have met and based on the attached memo, all seem to be in concurrence with this driveway use, pending further plan development, coordination, etc.”

AVs are the next generation for JTA’s fleet, intended to supplement and eventually replace the outmoded Skyway vehicles.

Mystery deepens on Times-Union ownership

Jacksonville residents are still trying to figure out what the recent sale of the Florida Times-Union means, and a recent Jax Daily Record write-up may or may not offer clarity.

It was previously reported that Gatehouse bought the T-U and other Morris Communications papers. And while that’s true, Gatehouse itself has an external owner after a 2013 Chapter 11 restructuring.

“New Media was created just four years ago to take control of the newspapers owned by GateHouse Media Inc. in a prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring … formed by a real estate investment trust called Newcastle Investment Corp,” writes the Record’s Mark Basch.

The Times-Union has branded itself as aggressively local journalism — and that branding has stepped up in the last year, especially after a Morris mandate to endorse Donald Trump for President. The paper has gone hyper local with niche publications for Downtown enthusiasts (“J”) and aging scenesters (“Jack.)

Will the future of this branding and these initiatives change soon? Re-orgs are always interesting.

What the donor class can buy

Marc and Nicole Padgett are among Curry’s strongest supporters, and the Jax Daily Record reports that their future fundraisers for the Mayor will be held in fine style.

The couple is building a multi-story mansion in Fort Caroline, an older neighborhood in Arlington that has some of the highest terrains in the city.

Mrs. Padgett reckons that on a clear day, the couple will be able to see Fernandina Beach from the top floor of their building.

Mr. Padgett is on the Downtown Investment Authority; Mrs. Padgett, on the city’s Planning Commission.

What Aaron Bean is up to

On Monday, Aug. 21, state Sen. Bean will speak to the University of North Florida Student Government Senate at their first meeting of the fall semester, beginning 7 p.m. at 1 UNF Drive In Jacksonville.

The Fernandina Beach Republican will then speak to the Joseph E. Lee Republican Club Thursday, Aug. 24 to give an update on the 2017 Legislative Session, beginning 6 p.m. at The Salem Centre, 7235 Bonneval Road in Jacksonville.

Bean will give another 2017 legislative session update Monday, Aug. 28, at the Republican Club of West Jacksonville’s monthly meeting beginning 6 p.m. At the Harvest Time Church of God, 4502 Old Middleburg Road in Jacksonville.

The next day, Tuesday, Aug. 29, Bean will also give an update to the Rotary Club of South Jacksonville at 12:30 p.m., River City Brewing Company, 835 Museum Circle In Jacksonville.

Save the date

Atlantic Beach kickbacks?

Eleventh-hour drama in the Atlantic Beach Mayor’s race, where Mitch Reeves is dealing with an untimely ethics flap two weeks before Election Day.

Untimely bad press for Mayor Mitch Reeves. Will it matter?

“Atlantic Beach resident and mayoral candidate Ellen Glasser brought the possible conflict to the attention of city officials when she filed a complaint about Reeves July 27. In the letter, she said she believes his employment with G.T. Distributors is a violation of Section 66 of the Atlantic Beach City Charter,” reports the Florida Times-Union.

“Glasser said she felt she needed to raise the issue after looking over city emails and transactions between the city and G.T. Distributors since October 2016. Reeves is a copied recipient of at least four emails regarding specific sales between the company and the city,” the T-U adds.

Not a good look.

Three candidates will face off Aug. 29. If a runoff is needed, that will be in November.

Amazon in NW Jax: Ready to start processing orders

The Jax Daily Record reports that Amazon has begun hiring associates in NW Jax, with the fulfillment of orders set to begin Sept. 1.

Amazon is bringing thousands of jobs, with many in the $12-$16 per hour range

All told, the Pecan Park Road center will focus on small goods, and employ 1,500 people.

The Cecil Commerce Center location will focus on large goods, opening later in September.

“The city and state approved $25.7 million in incentives for the two large fulfillment centers. [The] legislation says the company’s total investment will be $315 million,” the Daily Record report adds.

AppointedMike Bell to the District Board of Trustees, Florida State College at Jacksonville. Bell, 53, of Fernandina Beach, is the vice president of public affairs at Rayonier, Inc. He succeeds Dr. Patricia White and is appointed for a term ending May 31, 2021.

Loop Nursery wins medical marijuana license

Jacksonville-based Loop’s Nursery & Greenhouses, Inc. reached an agreement with the Florida Department of Health, reports the Daytona Beach News-Journal. The arrangement settles an extended legal dispute over the license and brings the number of firms approved to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana to 12.

Loop’s struggle to get a license began in 2014, after the passage of a law allowing the use of non-euphoric cannabis for limited types of patients, such as children suffering from epilepsy. The law, which opened the door to wider medical-marijuana legalization, created a process to award one license in each of five different regions of the state. Competition for those licenses sparked lawsuits from several growers, including Loop’s, ultimately reaching the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Now there are 12: After three years of legal fighting, Loop’s Nursery finally wins medical marijuana license.

State Surgeon General Celeste Philip, who is secretary of the Florida Department of Health, signed an order this week approving the settlement and Loop’s license. The DOH now has 10 days to formally license and register Loop’s as a “medical marijuana treatment center.”

Editorial: Deepen JAXPORT for stronger Jacksonville, Florida

A Florida-Times-Union editorial says for Jacksonville’s port to stay competitive, it should not turn away “from all the opportunities before it.”

“That means deepening the port, as has been done for over 100 years,” the T-U writes. “Ships are getting bigger. With federal and state help, Jacksonville is on the way to funding a necessary port deepening plan.”

History of the port is filled with naysayers, the paper notes, including the “black hat” who sought to retain the status quo a half-century ago, keeping intact the “corrupt city government and an underperforming County government.”

JAXPORT deepening: Good for Jacksonville, good for Florida.

Deepening the harbor will have a significant economic impact on both Jacksonville and the state of Florida.

Data from the Florida Department of Transportation shows that for every dollar invested in the deepening project will return $16 to $24 to the state’s economy: “JAXPORT is likely to be at the high end of that ratio, given its growing stake in the Asian trade market — which has increased by 57 percent in a five-year period.”

Conservatively, the Port supports about 130,000 jobs in Northeast Florida — more than 24,000 directly in Jacksonville — with the dredging creating 15,000-plus new jobs.

Uber, JAA reach agreement over trip fees

Action News Jax reports that Jacksonville’s main airport and ride-sharing service Uber have come to an agreement in principle over per-trip user fees.

In a statement, Uber gave details of the agreement: pickup fees for transportation network companies and taxi companies will be set at $2.50, changing to $3.25 for both as of Sept. 1, 2017.

JAA and Uber make nice over per-trip fees.

“We thank the airport’s leadership for working to ensure that Jacksonville residents continue to have access to affordable and reliable transportation options, said Uber Florida General Manager Kasra Moshkani.

Uber Florida Public Affairs Manager Javi Correoso told reporters JIA had been charging Uber $3.25, while Gator City cab paid $2.50 for the same per-trip fee.

“We are willing to pay fees at the airport, but we are just asking the leadership at the airport to be fair,” Correoso said.

After early scoring, Armada ends North Carolina match in draw

Jacksonville Armada FC scored twice early and held on for a 2-2 draw against league leaders North Carolina FC (NCFC) in Cary Saturday night.

Recently acquired forward Tony Taylor scored his first goal of his career with the club in just the third minute. In the 18th minute, Jack Blake scored on a penalty kick after a foul on Tony Taylor in the area to give the Armada a 2-0 lead. Just before halftime, North Carolina midfielder brought his club within one goal after a turnover in the Jacksonville box.

Newly acquired forward Tony Taylor shined once again in just his third match with the club.

“You give yourself no breathing room when it’s 2-1,” said Armada Head Coach Mark Lowry. “North Carolina has a lot of bodies coming forward, a lot of players going past you, and is a very hard team to go against if you don’t take your chances.”

“The first half we were good,” said Lowry. “One moment we fell asleep in the box, we didn’t clear our lines properly, we switched off for a second, and we got punished to make it 2-1. Then the second half was a completely different game.”

Following the break, North Carolina’s strong attacking play continued. NCFC broke through to level the match in the 69th minute when Lance Laing was in the right place at the right time for his seventh league goal of the year. The score remained level at 2-2 for the duration.

“If you take away the first 10 minutes, we were exceptionally good,” said NCFC Head Coach Colin Clarke. “But, you can’t to do that, so we’re still answerable for those poor goals we gave up at the beginning. The reaction after [Jacksonville’s] early goals was very good with our play and passing. With a little bit more luck and some better finishing, we could have gotten all three points.”

The Armada play Puerto Rico FC at Hodges Stadium Wednesday.


Jacksonville Council Finance Chair: ‘I didn’t plan on being opposition to the Mayor’

Beginning Thursday, the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee will review Mayor Lenny Curry‘s proposed budget.

Discussions last week showed an independent streak among the committee’s members, chaired by Curry’s leading City Hall antagonist of the moment, Garrett Dennis.

FP talked to Dennis Wednesday evening, after he gave a well-received speech to the Jacksonville Young Democrats

Though Dennis’ rhetoric is in campaign mode, he assures us that his next campaign is simply a run for re-election — not a bid for the Mayor’s Office, as some supporters have urged.

Dennis also addressed recent news cycles, including discussions of swimming lesson funding and after-school funding, that have seen him at odds with the Mayor.

“I didn’t plan on being opposition to the Mayor. I want to win. I want the city to win. I’m not anti-Curry. He’s a good guy,” Dennis said.

A good guy, but one with whom Dennis has policy differences.

One such difference dominated Jacksonville news cycles this week: Dennis’ latest push for more after-school program money.

Just a week after Dennis’ floor amendments were defeated on a bill allocating $1 million more for after-school programs, including an amendment that would have pushed the total spend to $3 million, with money coming from the city’s reserve accounts, Dennis tried again with an emergency appropriation for more money for these programs.

Dennis’ proposal is ambitious: it would extend offerings for 1,280 kids in 12 of 14 Council districts. Yet the source of financing nettles the Mayor’s Office; the bill seeks to move $1,92M from Council’s contingency account for pension liability to fund these programs.

Dennis defends the ask, noting that the fund is already being drawn upon for $1.1M SAFER Grant matching funds, that the fund still has a $2.3M balance, and that if unspent, the money would be swept into the general fund at the end of the fiscal year.

“If there is a hill I will die on,” Dennis said, “I will die on this hill fighting for these kids.”

Dennis also discussed Curry’s proposal to hire 100 new police officers, which was held in abeyance by the committee last week. 

“I’m confused on the math,” Dennis said, noting that only 80 of the officers are funded in the budget, and that 70 more are expected to retire next fiscal year.

JSO can only train 80 per year, Dennis said, and he’s unconvinced of the JSO plan to train 170 new officers.

“The math isn’t adding up,” Dennis said, noting the new hires will be younger and cheaper than the retirees.

“I don’t want to give more than JSO has the capacity to perform,” Dennis said, wanting a “realistic number” of trainable hires, rather than excess capacity.

Answers to these questions may not be provided until the “wrap up” meeting of the committee, which could be as late on the calendar as Aug. 26.

In the context of a rift between its chair and the Mayor, the committee resumes deliberations Thursday.

Thursday sees the Tax Collector and Supervisor of Elections kick proceedings off; Dennis was a former employee of the SOE, so he should have interesting insight.

The State Attorney and Public Defender also speak — and given their reform paths, coupled with a Finance Committee controlled by African-American Democrats who are getting intense community pressure on reforms to criminal justice, those could be potentially news-making hearings.

The big time commitment: three hours on Parks and Recreation, a hearing that may involve questions for Director Daryl Joseph on the potential removal of Confederate monuments — a priority of Council President Anna Brosche.

Garrett Dennis pushes for more Jax after-school money; Lenny Curry questions funding mechanism

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, just a week after his floor amendments to add more after-school funding to a bill from Mayor Lenny Curry failed, has filed standalone legislation to the same effect.

Dennis, via Ordinance 2017-605, seeks to move $1,92M from Council’s contingency account for pension liability to fund these programs.

The new money would serve 1,280 kids in 12 of 14 Council districts.

“This is an effort that aligns with achieving One City, One Jacksonville. Therefore, decisions have to be made to ensure that services are being equally available in every district. Our children deserve the opportunity for increased academic performance, improved leadership skills, and a safe, structured environment for youth engagement. As a united community, we must do what’s right for our children,” Dennis wrote.

Last week, Dennis proposed two floor amendments that would have boosted the Mayor’s proposed $1.071M allocation.

The first changed the total allocation amount to $1.408M, with all the money coming from reallocated funds from inside the Jacksonville Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission. 880 children would be added to the after-school programs with that new money.

The second floor amendment was even more ambitious, allocating $2.947M for 1,860 kids, with more money coming from unspent Jacksonville Journey funds, and $832,852 from the city’s general fund balance.

Curry spokeswoman Marsha Oliver offered a statement that questioned the funding mechanism: “funds in the ‘unused pension contingency account'(UAAL) have been previously earmarked and obligated for the one-time three percent payment to employees. These funds were earmarked during pension reform hearings and earmarked, once again, in the third quarter summary.”

“These knee-jerk reactions of appropriating funding on an emergency basis need to stop,” Oliver added.

Despite serious qualms about the funding mechanism, Oliver notes that Curry, “with his continued commitment to youth safety and enrichment offerings, has been meeting with Council members and is scheduled to meet with the Boys & Girls Club [one organization that didn’t get all the funding it wanted] to identify a solution that is fiscally responsible and properly vetted in the budget process.” –



Lenny Curry urges Duval Schools to retain Interim Supe through academic year

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry had a symbiotic relationship with former Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, including advocating for Vitti’s job security at one point when Vitti was under fire.

Vitti has moved on to Detroit. And now Curry is building relationships anew, as exemplified Wednesday morning when the Mayor met with current Interim Superintendent Pat Willis and School Board Chair Paula Wright.

Curry waded into Duval Schools’ politics earlier this summer, “concurring” with House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Rep. Jason Fischer that a state audit to account for $20M of spending over budget this fiscal year was necessary.

Though the state audit isn’t happening at this point, Curry invested political capital in calling for it.

We reached out to the Mayor’s Office Wednesday morning for a statement on the meeting, and Curry asserted that it went well.

Among other takeaways: Curry wants Superintendent Willis to stay in place throughout the year.

“I met today with the board chair and superintendent for Duval County Public Schools. We had a great discussion,” Curry related.

“As mayor and father to three Duval County students, I believe it’s important for me to understand their plans and priorities for improving the academic achievement levels of our city’s youth.  I expressed my optimism for the new year and encouraged the board to maintain the Interim superintendent throughout the school year to minimize distractions and disruptions to teaching and learning in schools.”

Curry’s statement jibes with feelings in the School Board building, where there is no rush to replace Willis.

Lenny Curry warns of ‘chatter from outside groups’ opposed to Confederate monument removal

During a Jacksonville press gaggle Tuesday, Mayor Lenny Curry warned of “chatter” heard by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in the wake of Council President Anna Brosche‘s proposal to remove Confederate monuments.

Curry comments came during questions to Gov. Rick Scott and him regarding the proposed removal of these monuments — a proposal fraught with controversy locally, with that controversy even extending to the Council.

“I do think it’s important when we talk about public safety to recognize that how this is pursued in our community is important,” Curry said.

“I get briefed by the Sheriff regularly. I can tell you right now from discussions with him, based on Council’s wanting to outright say they want to remove these — there’s chatter from these outside groups. People in Charlottesville are already talking about coming to Jacksonville. We want to keep those groups out of our city, and we want to work together as a community to have a civil discourse.”

“I’m not proposing we remove these monuments,” Curry said. “Certainly, if the public wants to have that conversation — now the Council President has said this is her priority to remove them.”

“I urge the Council to have that discussion, that debate, Whatever they decide, I’ll evaluate it when it lands on my desk at that time,” Curry said, refraining from a commitment to sign or veto the bill when asked.

Council President Brosche addressed Curry’s comments later Tuesday afternoon, saying that she’s “kicked off a process for defining an orderly and respectful solution for consideration by the Council and Mayor. I hope the community can allow that process to work.”

Gov. Scott said that Florida’s “representative governments” should “discuss and review” these monuments.

“At the local level,” Scott said, “they can make a decision.”

The same holds true for the state and federal level.

“We need to go through a process where everybody comes together, makes a decision, then we go forward. My goal is that we are unifiers … that hatred, bigotry, racism should not be part of our society. In regard to monuments,” Scott said, “that decision should be made through a local process.”

“Our state comes together … we have to be the best melting pot in the world … we get together in our state. We solve problems in our state,” Scott said, urging trust in the “process,” one which includes the Mayor.

Jacksonville pols, civic leaders urge Confederate monument removal

In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville this weekend, which included one person killed by a domestic terrorist, protesters in Jacksonville renewed calls to remove Confederate monuments in the city.

Such calls have increased in intensity in recent weeks, with interesting contretemps at Jacksonville City Council meetings between Confederate enthusiasts and progressives who believe those symbols, rather than being celebrations of heritage, are venerations of institutional racism that has yet to abate.

Passions are swirling.

In that context, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry offered a strong statement Monday morning after a job creation event, leaving no room for confusion as to where he stands. And, soon thereafter, Council President Anna Brosche offered a way forward to perhaps remove the controversial Confederate markers.

“Let’s first start with what happened this weekend,” Curry said, regarding the loss of life in Charlottesville at the hands of a white supremacist.

“Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II. One of my grandfathers told stories of literal face to face combat with Nazis. I heard these stories as a child,” Curry said.

“One grandfather told me specifically what he was up against,” Curry added. “He had friends who didn’t come home. I saw the effects it had on him; I condemn it.”

“I condemn and reject the KKK, white supremacy, all of these groups — Nazis, neo-Nazis. It’s not what America is about. Frankly that’s not what humanity should be about,” Curry said.

“I do believe in our creed that we’re all created equally. So it’s sickening,” Curry said.

“Should we have any kind of public assembly here on this issue,” Curry added, “I’m going to work with JSO and make sure it’s safe and we don’t experience injury or loss of life.”

Curry then left an opening for a resolution to this issue from the legislative branch.

“That said,” Curry added, “City Council is the legislative body. We have a new Council President. I’ve yet to have a member of City Council come to me and say this is their priority; however, if a Council President or members of Council deem this to be a priority, on monuments, then I urge them to have a debate in a public forum.”

“If legislation develops,” Curry added, “I’ll see what it is at that time.”

Legislation may move sooner than later, with a strong statement from Council President Brosche.

“Following the leads of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and most recently the Florida Senate who removed Confederate items from public places in Tallahassee, and in response to the horrific and unacceptable incidents that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, I am asking that the City of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department and the Planning Department (Community Planning Division, Historic Preservation Section) conduct an inventory of all Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers on public property,” Brosche wrote Monday.

“In order to develop an appropriate plan of action to relocate Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers, it is important to know the full landscape of such a task. Upon completion of the inventory, I intend to propose legislation to move Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers from public property to museums and educational institutions where they can be respectfully preserved and historically contextualized. It is important to never forget the history of our great city; and, these monuments, memorials, and markers represent a time in our history that caused pain to so many,” Brosche added.

Brosche’s position was endorsed strongly Monday afternoon by Ed Burr, head of the Jacksonville Civic Council.

“The Jacksonville Civic Council opposes racism and discrimination in every form and seeks to advance a culture of fairness and respect for all. We commend Mayor Lenny Curry and City Council President Brosche for taking the lead to thoughtfully consider removal of Confederate monuments from local public property, particularly in light of the tragic events of last weekend. The Civic Council will evaluate and weigh in on any legislation introduced
on the matter. Our vision of Jacksonville holds no room for hate.”

In what seems like a retrospective contrast, City Council members were reluctant to offer opinions Monday morning at City Hall.

“No comment,” said Councilman Sam Newby. Councilmen Doyle Carter and Scott Wilson also gave essential no comment statements.

Others were more voluble, if no less conflicted.

“I’m willing to listen to both sides,” Council VP Aaron Bowman said. “What happened last weekend in Charlottesville was despicable.”

Regarding Jacksonville’s Confederate momuments, Bowman suggested “some could be taken down, while others stay up.”

Jacksonville’s most high-profile Confederate monument in Hemming Park, Bowman said, could fall in either category.

“I’m willing to listen,” Bowman said, “and do what’s right for the community.”

Councilman Greg Anderson described himself as “very disappointed” with what went down in Charlottesville, a situation that exemplifies the perils “when groups decide to stop talking.”

On Jacksonville’s historical monuments, meanwhile, Anderson has yet to take a position.

Councilman Jim Love noted that he’s getting a lot more “anti-monument emails” in recent days, but he hasn’t “made up his mind” on the matter.

Love described the “death in Charlottesville” as “terrible,” and noted the “vitriol” in recent public comment periods as concerning.

“I understand both sides,” Love said. “It’s a tough call. You want to make the people happy.”

The Hemming statue, said Love, “has been out there 100 years. If we take another two or three years to figure it out, it won’t hurt.”

‘Jacksonville is hot,’ says Lenny Curry at Macquarie ribbon cutting

Early in the term of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Australian financial sector titans the Macquarie Group came to town.

Jacksonville beat out other competitors in what was called a robust global search in 2015; in 2017, Macquarie doubled down with an expansion of its Southbank Riverwalk location.

The incentive package driving that was rolled out in May.

 City incentives helped MacQuarie decide to bring 50 new operations jobs and $1.7M in capital investment to the River City instead of a city in Northern India.

Jacksonville assumes 20 percent, or $50,000 of the cost, via the QTI Targeted Tax Refund Program. The state meanwhile assumes $200,000 of the financial impact.

On Monday at Macquarie’s Jacksonville HQ, Mayor Curry said that the expansion is one more piece of evidence that “Jacksonville is hot.”

Curry cited the private sector, universities, and the regulatory environment as reasons why that is.

Council President Anna Brosche added that “once businesses come here, they grow here.”

The partnership between the Mayor’s Office, the City Council, and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has been pivotal toward closing deals, Curry said.

The Mayor added that, despite changes in incentives on the state level, there’s still room for economic incentives to drive similar relocations.

While the economy is necessarily “cyclical,” Curry said that “if you have a wave, it’s smart to ride that wave.”

Chamber Chair Darnell Smith noted that the Chamber has already announced 2,600 new jobs with a $550M economic impact this year.

Jacksonville Bold for 8.11.17 — Now we go to school

Those who work at Jacksonville City Hall have received a political education of late, demonstrated by a recent City Council bill on funding after-school programs.

With apologies to Ric Flair, but his famous catchphrase “now we go to school” applies here … and not just because this bill was education-related.

Finance Chair Garrett Dennis wanted to tap into general fund reserves for one-time money to fund after-school program expansion — a position at odds with that of Mayor Lenny Curry, on yet another issue.

In a statement, Curry said that would not be “prudent” and would send the wrong message to ratings agencies, and if the bill passed with that condition, “the mayor would evaluate it when it lands on his desk.”

Instead, here’s what happened. The Finance Chair’s amendments got turfed, with the old guard of the Council — Bill Gulliford, John Crescimbeni and others — again controlling the discourse at the expense of Dennis and Council President Anna Brosche.

As with previous conflicts between Dennis and Curry (see: swimming lessons money), the battle took a familiar track. Dennis got out in front of consensus on an issue, and Team Curry picked off potential supporters in quiet conversations after that.

With budget discussions beginning this week in Dennis’ committee, we are reminded of another famous Flair phrase.

“To be the man,” the Nature Boy often said when defending his world title, “you’ve got to beat the man.”

Does Dennis have the juice? We’ll watch that this month, along with all kinds of other excitement in state and federal politics, some of which you will see below.

John Rutherford heads to Israel

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford has settled in quickly to his role in Congress and this recess week found the Jacksonville Republican burnishing his foreign policy chops with a trip to the Middle East.

John Rutherford is making his first trip to Israel as a congressman.

Per a news release from Rutherford’s office, the congressman left for Israel Monday “as part of a delegation of Members of Congress to meet with various leaders in the region including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas.”

The delegation discussed “US relations in the region including economic, military and security cooperation.”

Rutherford met “with Nafatali Bennet, the Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs, IDF Soldiers, as well as Israeli military leaders, professors and business leaders. The group will also tour Israeli military bases, as well as visit historic and holy sites.”

Guilt is a ‘myth,’ says Corrine Brown lawyer

Rep. Brown was in court this week fighting guilty convictions on 18 counts, contending that she should a] get a new trial and/or b] be acquitted.

The arguments had been rehearsed in the written motions and during the trial, as the prosecution noted.

One man’s wire fraud is another man’s mythology.

“The defense is not saying anything different today than it did [during] the proceedings,” one of the prosecutors asserted, hammering in on repeated instances of “fraudulent omissions” regarding pitches to donors, statements on tax returns, and so on — with Brown’s word being the only evidence to the contrary.

Evidentiary points, such as Brown holding blank checks from One Door, loomed large as evidence of Brown’s involvement.

“She had hijacked the charity, had her chief of staff take control of the finances, and was bleeding it dry,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Coolican said.

Rev. Jesse Jackson was there in support — yet another nostalgia act on this never-ending road show that is the end of Corrine Brown’s political career.

Quiet July for Paul Renner committees

July was the first month of fundraising for future Florida House Speaker Renner‘s political committees since he won the honor in late June.

Paul Renner did not have much committee-level financial activity in July.

Some observers may have anticipated an avalanche of activity, but in reality, the committees had modest contributions and spends.

“Florida Foundation for Liberty,” Renner’s primary committee, brought in just $25,500 in July (spending $20,383 of that), pushing the committee just over $240,000 on hand.

Donations came in from political committees, including the Realtors, Surgi-PAC, and the Florida Credit Union’s political action committee.

The biggest donation: $10,000 from MHK of Volusia County.

Of the over $20,000 spent, $4,000 went to Ballard Consulting, $2,685 went to Renner’s campaign account for reimbursements, $10,000 went to another Renner committee, “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.”

Meanwhile, there were just two external donations, and both were in the Jacksonville metro area.

The committee gave $1,000 to Clay Yarborough‘s campaign, and $2,500 to “A Safe Jacksonville,” the political committee of Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.

The aforementioned “Conservatives for Principled Leadership,” meanwhile, has just under $18,000 on hand after a $12,500 July.

Beyond the $10,000 from Renner’s other committee, the other $2,500 came from the “Florida Prosperity Fund” committee.

Yarborough continues strong fundraising

Rep. Yarborough, the Jacksonville Republican representing State House District 12, hauled in $7,500 in July fundraising.

Among the bigger names from the nine donors: Foley and Lardner and Florida Foundation for Liberty (the committee of future House Speaker Renner).

Yarborough has raised nearly $49,000 this cycle, and has just under $41,000 of that on hand, as he prepares for a general election challenge in the deep red district.

Yarborough is slated to face a general election opponent: Tim Yost, a local college instructor running as a Democrat.

Yost filed for this race in the middle of July and has raised $2,215, largely from small-dollar donors, with a few bearing the surname of Yost.

Bobby Payne draws competition in HD 19

GOP state Rep. Payne, whose district encompasses parts of Union, Clay, Bradford and Putnam counties, has drawn both primary and general election opposition in recent days.

Green Cove Springs Republican Boyce Royal filed July 31 to run against Payne in the GOP primary.

Royal is a real estate agent by trade.

The winner of that primary will go on to face a Libertarian, Ryan Russell Ramsey, in the general election.

Bobby Payne will be harder to beat in the re-elect than some might think.

Payne, a Palatka native, has just under $23,000 on hand after a $6,500 July comprised of donations from Jacksonville’s power elite — Peter Rummell, the Fiorentino Group, Jacksonville Kennel Club and so on.

Expect that war chest to grow.

Despite being a rookie legislator, Payne will be a tough out; he has a strong working relationship with Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings of the Clay Delegation, and with Gov. Rick Scott.

In the contested GOP primary in 2016, Payne won his native Putnam with 55 percent of the vote, but he held his own — and then some — elsewhere. He got 47 percent of the vote in Union, 31 percent in Clay, and 35 percent in Bradford.

Curry fundraising machine churns on

Jacksonville Mayor Curry hasn’t officially launched his re-election campaign, but the donor class is all in.

Already this month, Curry raised over $100K at an event at the JAX Chamber.

Lenny Curry looks poised for re-election. Will anyone bother challenging him?

Chamber CEO Daniel Davis tweeted out an understatement: “looks like JAX Chamber wants to see Lenny Curry re-elected.”

Curry’s committee continues the momentum one would expect from a popular incumbent.

July saw Curry’s committee raise $52.5K, and disperse $19,647 — including $5,000 to “Seamless Florida,” the committee of St. Petersburg Republican mayoral candidate Rick Baker.

The big donor: Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who ponied up $25K.

There was no invoicing of the trip that Curry took on Khan’s private jet for an economic development trip last week to Baltimore, St. Louis, and Kansas City.

That trip explored, among other concepts, development ideas for future development of the area around Jacksonville’s football stadium and other athletic facilities.

Happy Consolidation anniversary

Jacksonville’s Consolidation (as in the city and the county became one) is 50 years old. And this week, the Florida Times-Union took a walk down memory lane, via an interesting piece from Matt Soergel that dug into the archives and looked at the debate at the time.

The Jacksonville Journal, which used to be the afternoon paper in Jacksonville, noted that “the people [won]” with “Floridians now know[ing] that the sleeping giant who sat at one of the most enviable spots in the state now means to shake off the slumber of years.”

Former Mayor Hans Tanzler in an iconic image after Consolidation.

Did that happen?

Depends on who you ask.

As we saw in July in Jacksonville’s City Council, a resolution in favor of a celebration of Consolidation didn’t muster unanimous support.

A movement for full Council sponsorship of the resolution was spiked by Councilman Reggie Brown, who spoke at length about infrastructural failings and broken promises.

Brown noted that JEA, for example, isn’t committed to sewer and water expansion in his district.

“Until we have a plan to say that if you live inside the Beltway, we will focus on installing sewer and water, there is no celebration,” Brown said.

Likewise, Councilwoman Katrina Brown would not sign on, citing “the same issues,” even as she lauded the Council and JEA for committing $30M over five years for septic tank phase out.

Consolidation conundrum, part 2

More discussion of the future of Consolidation occurred Tuesday in Jacksonville City Council offices.

There is plenty to do, of course.

Fifty years in, and Consolidation is still a work in progress.

One ongoing initiative: a task force to deal with public health issues.

Employee health: another matter to be addressed. Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa suggested Mayor Curry may want to deal with that task force.

And changes in health care could be contemplated.

“The county hospital model is becoming a thing of the past in most cities,” Councilwoman Lori Boyer remarked.

The expansion of CPACs — Citizen Planning Advisory Committees — also was up for discussion.

“When we consolidated, we became a big bureaucratic entity,” Boyer said, with CPACs serving an important role to bring localism to the larger government.

And bringing the discussion back full circle, a discussion of allocating a fixed amount of the capital improvement program budget to the promises made before Consolidation happened.

“Part of the argument for Consolidation,” Boyer said, was standardizing city services.

“Much of [the work] hasn’t been done.”

JAXPORT dredge frustrates City Council

While JAXPORT and the state and federal governments are full steam ahead regarding dredging the St. Johns River to 47 feet, City Councilors wonder how much the city will be soaked for, per the Florida Times-Union.

“They’ve orchestrated it in a way that we’re not engaged until some point in the future,” Councilman Bill Gulliford said. “We don’t know what the actual number will be.”

“At this point, I’m probably in the category of one confused council member,” Councilman John Crescimbeni said. “My comfort level is not great, and it’s a very complicated issue because of all the different numbers and figures that are being bandied about by a variety of sources. I think I need to hire my own forensic accountant to try to reconcile everything down to two files — fact and fiction.”

A disappointed Lori Boyer is not optimal when selling a city commitment.

“I am disappointed that they have chosen to phase this process in such a way that they’re not coming to the city for any approval prior to starting the project,” Councilwoman Boyer said. “That’s clearly the frustrating part.”

While some are on board, the reality is JAXPORT has more selling to do — and probably in noticed meetings.

Jax LGBT advocates laud HRO protections

With uncertainty now the watchword regarding federal protections for LGBT people, Jacksonville advocates are happy that the local Human Rights Ordinance protects them locally, reports the Florida Times-Union.

Despite theistic agitprop, the HRO is now law, reassuring LGBT locals.

Jimmy Midyette, legislative director of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, described what the bill actually means in the new context.

“We had to make the point again and again and again that we’re not covered [and] we’re not doing a ‘feel-good’ bill to make people think we’re doing something,” Midyette said. “I think it just shows with so much uncertainty on the national level it’s more important than ever to have these local protections in place.”

Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel notes that no matter what happens on the federal level, the local protections are still actionable.

Since the HRO expansion became law in February, no claims have been filed that the law was broken.

St. Johns Republican Chair takes on transgender high schooler

Just across the county line from Jacksonville, the argument for HRO protections was made by a local GOP member going in on a transgender high-school student.

A new low for the St. Johns County GOP: trashing a high-school student.

Action News Jax reports that “Drew Adams, 16, is suing the school district to use the boy’s restroom. The Republican Party recently sent a letter to neighbors, saying it disagrees with the lawsuit, and so does a school board member.”

GOP Chairman Bill Korach said the “girl” is “confused,” saying that the student “ought to use the girl’s restroom” and “ought to get counseling.”

Adams has sued the school district, charging discrimination and petitioning to use the boys’ restroom.

Web.com coy on buyout rumors

If you’re looking for details on the future of Web.com, you might think CEO David Brown would give a hot quote. But you’d be mistaken.

The Jax Daily Record quoted his word salad from a quarterly call with investors, in which Brown was asked to address the rumor directly.

The future of Web.com is up in the air.

“Happy to comment on it and that comment is we don’t comment on market rumors about this type of topic,” he said.

“I think it’s worth noting that we’ve always been open to whatever would build long-term shareholder value, whatever maximizes our shareholders’ interests and we’ve said numerous times and continue to say that we talk to lots of people from strategic to financial players in the market. There are many reasons to talk to them,” Brown added.

As with another local business, CSX, lots of tea leaves are being read right now regarding the future.

Times-Union sells out

Morris Communications sold the Florida Times-Union to yet another big media company, Gatehouse, this week.

Morris billed the sale as “a strategic restructuring to focus its business on lifestyle publications, property development and new business.”

The T-U isn’t alone: some Morris properties were also sold this week.

For T-U staffers, this ends a conflicted relationship with the parent company, which compelled the local paper to endorse President Donald Trump last year, and which also had introduced a more corporate feel in recent months, including electronic time card punches for reporters.

It’s going to get more corporate going forward. As the T-U reports, Gatehouse owns “more than 130 daily newspapers and more than 500 non-daily publications across the United States.”

T-U reporters who want to talk about this are welcome to get a beer sometime with our Jacksonville correspondent. He’s happy to listen.

JAXBIZ endorses Atlantic Beach incumbents

BeachesBIZ, a JAXBIZ subcommittee, is supporting incumbents in the races for Mayor of Atlantic Beach and Atlantic Beach City Commission.

The status quo will continue, with Mitch Reeves as the Mayoral pick, and Jimmy Hill and Mitch Harding getting commission nods.

Atlantic Beach Mayor Mitch Reeves

“All of these candidates have proven their commitment to Atlantic Beach, focusing on a thriving local economy while continuing to improve the unmatched quality of life at the beach,” JAXBIZ Chair Denise Wallace said.

Happening Wednesday

Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) launches a first-of-its-kind digital Manufacturers Marketplace at 3 p.m. EST at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, 111 Busch Drive in Jacksonville. A reception will follow the announcement.

The Manufacturers Marketplace is a web-based, searchable buyer/seller network featuring listings of hundreds of thousands of manufacturers in the United States, including Puerto Rico.  Created in partnership with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and other leading state manufacturing associations, the Manufacturers Marketplace is designed to bolster manufacturers in the United States by helping them find, get found and advance their businesses. Register at AIF.com/marketplace.

Pay to play

College football for students at Keiser University? While that may sound counterintuitive, it is happening, reports the Florida Times-Union.

As with the NFL Seahawks, the Keiser variety expects the 12th Man Advantage

How to field a team with students from campuses across the state? Here’s what the new coach had to say.

“There’s just a lot going on. We’ve got to fill a roster, we’ve got to recruit the state, fill a coaching staff … have daily conversations about facilities, where we’re going to play and where we’re going to put these kids.”

On a positive note, the new athletic director expects robust road support. The students are already commuters.

“We have the advantage in that we have faculty and students [from other campuses around the state] that can come to games while we’re on the road,” the AD said.

PLAYERS back to March

The PLAYERS Championship may be moving back to its more traditional March place on the calendar, after years of taking place in May, the T-U reports.

“The Associated Press reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources, that the PGA will be played at the Bethpage State Park Black Course on Long Island in New York in May of 2019, clearing the way for The Players to move back to the March date it held from 1977 to 2006,” per the T-U.

PLAYERS Championship returns to a March tee-off

“The Players, contested at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, will be held in May one more year under the expected schedule changes. The Tour has held a tournament on the First Coast since 1965, but was in March until Phil Mickelson won the 2007 Players in May,” the T-U adds.

Armada struggle in Puerto Rico

The Jacksonville Armada FC traveled to the Caribbean to take on Puerto Rico FC this past Saturday night for the first road trip of the Fall Season and the first trip under the new ownership of Robert Palm.

Puerto Rico claimed a 1-0 victory after what could only be described as a difficult 90 minutes for Jacksonville.

The Armada have been slumping of late, so Head Coach Mark Lowry boasted some changes in his starting lineup to show that eagerness. New forwards Brian Shriver and Tony Taylor received their first starts with the team, as well as defender Peabo Doue. Shriver and Taylor are both newcomers with Florida pedigree. Shriver is from Clearwater and previously played for Miami FC, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies. He led the NASL in playoff goals while playing for Fort Lauderdale in 2011. Taylor played for Jacksonville University and Lynch’s FC in 2009 an amateur Jacksonville club. He signed for Fort Lauderdale the next year and spent several years on loan in Europe before returning to North America to play in MLS.

The changes didn’t make much of a difference early as Puerto Rico was able to create opportunities and recorded 10 first half shots.

Armada endures first fall season loss in Puerto Rico

Jacksonville answered Puerto Rico’s offensive effort with a tough and resourceful defense, however. Mechack Jérôme cleared four chances, with Caleb Patterson-Sewell staying firm in front of the goal.

Puerto Rico’s effort was rewarded late in the first half. In the 43rd minute, Conor Doyle received a cross from Giuseppe Gentile to put the ball past Patterson-Sewell, and Puerto Rico took the 1-0 lead.

Jacksonville returned in the second half showing some initiative, but Puerto Rico continued to fire shots toward Patterson-Sewell.

Second half substitutions by the Armada FC brought some intensity to the side on the hot and humid Puerto Rico pitch.

Charles Eloundou was subbed in the 61st minute to give the Armada FC much-needed speed. He used it to motor up and around Puerto Rico’s defense and created a great chance in the 75th minute. He took a shot from a distance after receiving the ball from Zach Steinberger but Puerto Rico’s goalkeeper, Trevor Spangenberg, launched upward to knock it up and over the net. Doue received his second yellow card in the 85th minute and was ejected from the match. Although now only having 10 men, the Armada FC kept consistent defense to keep Puerto Rico from tallying another goal.

Jérôme attempted some late-match heroics with his effort just two minutes after Doue left the field. He launched a free kick straight toward the net, 550but it bounced off the crossbar and goal post to keep Puerto Rico in the lead.

Jacksonville could not find the net before the final whistle, so Puerto Rico took all three points at home. This marks the first loss of the Fall Season for the Armada FC and extends the Armada’s current winless streak to five.

Jax Councilors hammer Sheriff Mike Williams on policy, procedure

The first day of Jacksonville City Council review of Mayor Lenny Curry‘s proposed budget was highlighted by a deep dive into the Sheriff’s budget: 35 percent of the general fund.

Among the highlights of the proposed budget: 100 more cops, which would bring force levels within a few dozen of the peak of 1,800 officers years back.

80 would be in the current budget, with the employee cap increased to 100.

The requested hires led to questions about what the JSO is doing with resources. Finance Committee members hammered Sheriff Mike Williams with questions about how the department is doing business, following up on a vow to do so last week at a town hall meeting.

“I think we have to separate the staffing conversation from the misconduct conversation,” Williams said after a series of tough questions from committee members.

“98 percent of officers in this department do the right thing every day.”

After robust discussion, some items were moved “below the line” even after 2 1/2 hours of discussion: position increase, budget amounts associated with position increase, outsourcing of health benefits, and personnel and professional development.

What that means: Finance wasn’t sold by the discussion.


Sheriff Mike Williams had met with most committee members already, yet there were questions and comments from council members.

Councilman Matt Schellenberg wanted to know how many training classes would be held to train new officers.

JSO trains 40 at a time, and also handles state-certification training in St. Johns County, decreasing the burden on training classes.

“At one point this summer, we had 1,000 people in the pipeline,” Williams said. “I don’t anticipate any problem finding people to fill positions.”

Williams also discussed pressures on law enforcement: stress, divorce, and alcoholism are among these, a “constant topic for conversation” for officers.

Williams also, in response to Schellenberg, said he’d be willing to move/replace the Police Memorial Building and the jail from prime real estate on Bay Street, which is being primed for redevelopment.


Williams also addressed shortfalls in medical staffers in the jail, which is driving the $12M uptick in health costs.

“We’ve had legal challenges, accreditation challenges with corrections health care,” Williams said, leading to “substandard care” in those facilities and a potential “tremendous liability” to the city.

Councilman Reggie Gaffney also posed the question of a shortfall in diverse hires.

Williams noted that 51 percent of those he hired were women and minorities since he took office in July 2015.

Gaffney also asked why Tyler Landreville, the officer who shot Vernell Bing last year, is back on patrol.

“The State Attorney makes the determination as to whether the shooting hit the criminal threshold or not,” Williams said. Then, an internal adminstrative review comes.

“Sometimes the officer will go back to work based on what the review is,” Williams said, noting that there is a two-track investigation.

Gaffney was satisfied with the response, though it’s uncertain how satisfied his constituents will be.


Councilwoman Lori Boyer likewise noted the meme of $12 million added to the budget for 100 new cops. The actual hard cost: $4.41M this year as they are phased in.

Next FY, the cost would be just below $9M.

Boyer also had questions about cops on the beat, patrolling. Williams asserted that, of officers recently hired, 60 percent or more went on patrol.

Staff shortfalls have affected detective work, including homicide investigations, Williams said. However, patrol positions are more visible.

“If I’m increasing your budget, I want to make sure you’re part of the solution,” Boyer said. “My concern is that sitting in this meeting, we have all these vacancies in patrol.”


Councilwoman Katrina Brown was next up.

“I’ve been out in the community … what’s your plan to create increased trust between officers and citizens?”

Williams asserted that more officers allow for more community policing.

“Part of that is to expose them to 99 percent of the people in the city, good people,” Williams said, as officers move from call to call and only encounter the criminal element.

“When somebody calls the police,” Williams said, “we have to respond.”

“I hear the same things you do — all I see is the officers driving by. That’s because they’re going from one call to the next,” Williams said.

This leads to “frustration” for officers, but the goal is to “build relationships down in the neighborhoods to decrease crime.”

Williams added that officers who run afoul of guidelines are being properly trained, but that they are guilty of “misconduct.”

“It’s not that an officer isn’t trained … it’s that they are running contrary to what’s been taught,” Williams said.

Brown wanted to know how often policies are reviewed; Williams asserted that it’s an ongoing process, in accordance with a “very high expectation” from the community.

Brown also noted that in other jurisdictions, officers like the aforementioned Tyler Landreville are off the street through an FDLE investigation that JSO refrains from.

“My concern with FDLE is … these decisions should be made in Jacksonville,” Williams said. “I have got to have a comfort level that if I need to say something to the community to decrease the comfort level that it’s our investigation.”

“We are the fact gatherers,” Williams said. “Decisions are made in the State Attorney’s Office.”

Brown noted that “the community is looking for answers.”

It’s unclear if Williams’ explanation provides them, even with State Attorney Melissa Nelson giving a “fresh look” at these investigations, which can often sprawl over months.

“The 100 new officers, that’s been a very tough decision for me,” Councilwoman Brown added. “The perception is they’ll be in a certain area targeting a certain group of people.”

Williams observed that by the time they are phased in fully, needs can change in zones, meaning that it’s uncertain where the new hires will go.

Right now, resources are so scattered that reinforcements come in from other counties.

“That 100 officers isn’t extra … the bread and butter things that officers do … the necessity of providing coverage where we need to,” Williams said,

Councilman Danny Becton, meanwhile, said “there’s a perception you’re trying to hire an army.”


Councilman Reggie Brown wanted to move more “seasoned officers” from headquarters to the street.

Williams noted that a massive departmental re-org is in planning.

“You look up one day and see things don’t make sense,” Williams said.

Today, Williams said, people aren’t getting those “cushy jobs in the building,” except for those injured, disabled, or otherwise restricted in duty.

Councilman Brown also brought up Tyler Landreville, urging that he not be on patrol.


Williams continued to take questions on deployment of resources, with Councilwoman Boyer trying to ensure the new cops are used for community policing, including parks.

“To just give you the positions and have no idea how they’re going to be used,” Boyer said, doesn’t sit well.

“We need to be able to provide adequate service to the community, because we aren’t doing that today,” Williams said, calling it a “staffing issue.”

Councilwoman Katrina Brown likewise wanted a “layout” of what new officers would be used to do.

“I don’t think the news media’s been on your side,” Brown said, regarding the reporting on JSO misdeeds. “The community’s got a lot of questions. We should at least be able to answer the basics.”


In happier news, Sheriff Williams did note that red light cameras will be out of Jacksonville by the end of the year.

Turns out they don’t prevent crashes after all.

Jax City Council begins mulling Lenny Curry’s budget

The August ritual began anew Thursday morning in Jacksonville’s City Hall, with the City Council Finance Committee beginning its review of the Mayor’s proposed budget.

The day began with a romp through a presentation from the Curry administration, followed by the Council Auditor’s review of the budget.

The proposed $1.27B budget is up from the $1.2B budget the previous year, with highlighted adds including 100 new cops, 42 new fire and rescue workers, contingency accounts for raises, and augmented reserve levels.

There are caveats even in those employee adds: 80 new cops are funded for six months, and 20 are unfunded altogether.

Throughout the three-hour plus opening session, the budget was reviewed holistically, with some tweaks from the Council Auditor approved without discussion, and others occasioning much debate.


Finance Chair Garrett Dennis kicked off the meeting with props: a ruler and sharpened pencils, to facilitate a sharp review.

And his words were as sharp as those No. 2 pencils : Dennis said that all of Jacksonville needed to be represented in the budget, suggesting that last year’s $8M Council Contingency may not be so robust this year.

Dennis also suggested that there’s “new information” to consider as part of the budget process.

Tension erupted early with visiting Councilor John Crescimbeni questioning Dennis’ decision to not consider enhancements and adjustments as the process went on, rather than at the end.

“I’m specifically talking about enhancements,” Dennis said.


Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa introduced Curry’s “thoughtful and conservative budget,” noting that the administration has been working with the Council Auditor.

Some recommendations from the auditor are fine, Mousa said. Others require “dialogue.”

Mousa noted that pension reform was key to solvency, including maintaining employee cap and fulfilling capital improvements.

“We are now able to look forward to enhancements and improvements, many of which have been overdue,” Mousa said.

Mousa noted the public safety enhancements, $60M set aside for pension allocation, and an enhanced emergency reserve to 6 percent. As well, $32M will be allocated to vehicle replacement, most of which will be paid for via cash.

“The CIP begins to address needed improvements,” Mousa said, throughout the city. Fire stations and equipment: in the CIP, as is a $50M “Safer Neighborhoods” program that includes $8.4M for Edward Waters College.

Mousa noted that any borrowing falls “well within our debt authority guidelines,” with current borrowing getting “positive ratings from bond agencies,” which in turn decreases borrowing costs.

Mousa also referenced Finance Chairman Garrett Dennis’s promise to press departments on equal opportunity provisions, noting that an ordinance went into effect this year, and other steps are being and have been taken to comply with that ordinance.

Mousa also noted that Better Jacksonville Plan paydown is going very well. Once BJP is retired, of course, the half-cent sales tax moves over to address the city’s unfunded pension liability of $2.7B.

“Better Jacksonville’s looking good,” Mousa said.

Also discussed: budgets for the Jacksonville Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission, which will both be phased out, with functions rolled into the Kids Hope Alliance proposal.

The Journey and JCC budgets are combined this year, a reflection of the re-org.


Some positives in ad valorem were discussed by the Council Auditor: an estimated $45M revenue increase, of a total expected revenue of $625M, a 6.45 percent increase that reflects the property bubble at the late-stage in the current cycle of economic expansion driven by monetary-supply manipulation.

This increase helps to drive the total increase of 166 employees, bringing the city to 7,310 total, in addition to the capital improvements.

“That’s mostly police and fire positions,” Council Auditor Kyle Billy noted.

Salaries are up, almost 8 percent ($28.331M). New public safety employees and collectively bargained wage hikes  drive most of the rise. Personnel costs are down $80M, $79M of that from decreased defined benefit pension contributions, offset by $4M to the defined contribution plan to new hires.

Group hospitalization costs: down nearly $10M, due to switches to self-insurance plans.

“The city’s had really good experience with self-insurance,” Billy said, and he proposed five contribution “holidays” to use up reserves.

A list of ten Council Auditor recommendations were considered, and most of them were approved without objection. These boost the council contingency by $1.332M.

As well, a talking point was the torpor of FEMA reimbursements post-Matthew, regarding $7M for an emergency incidents contingency.

“It can take years,” Billy said.

That didn’t mollify some committee members, who speculated about there perhaps being shortfalls in the city’s applications.


Discussion continued with concerns about loans to enterprise funds, including a $3M loan to Solid Waste. The Council Auditor suggested fee raises to offset these loans.

“Solid waste is in a state of flux,” Mousa said, noting the city’s recycling contract is ending and the city will no longer get paid for recycled waste.

Recycling isn’t paying off right now, Mousa said, because of an oil glut.

“We do not have a timeline of what the future of recycling will bring,” Mousa said.

Stormwater also needs a $2.3M loan, and a fee increase is not appropriate or timely, Mousa said.

The loans were approved, and the auditor recommendation was spiked.


In another bit of intrigue, Councilman John Crescimbeni noted that he may want to revisit the Cultural Council’s budget based on “some things [he] heard.”

He was told he’d be afforded the opportunity to do that, but the timing is still up in the air as of when.


Discussion also ensued as to Council members’ salaries, which were reduced by 2 percent in FY 2010-11.

Councilman Matt Schellenberg motioned to bump the salaries up to pre-FY 2010-11 levels, and that motion was quickly adopted by the committee “to be in compliance with the state statute.”


Borrowing money for capital offered controversy eventually, via: $9.7M for fire and rescue vehicles, as part of the Safe Neighborhoods plan.

The Council Auditor wanted to eliminate or reduce borrowing; CFO Mike Weinstein said that the Mayor’s Office agrees with the recommendation, conceptually.

Weinstein believes that the administration could move to 100 percent pay-go in three to five years.

Weinstein got pushback, with Matt Schellenberg noting that the homestead exemption hit could impact budgets.

The recommendation is conceptually approved; the trick will be, of course, finding the money in the budget to offset proposed borrowing.

Notable: the $9.7M is a hard cap without further legislation.


Fee reviews: also a talking point, with the Council Auditor wanting waiver language to be consistent with the ordinance code.

Weinstein said there were too many fees and not enough time to get a handle on them before budget, with a promise to come back with an updated fee analysis in a few months.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer backed the play, seeking an amendment to give the administration a December 15 deadline, which would lock fees into the FY 16/17 level in the short term.

Weinstein believes the fee process is “outdated” and “can be improved greatly,” but it will take time — with over 100 fees to mull.

“Dec. 15 is not doable,” Mousa said. “The fee structure is messed up.”

Current ordinance doesn’t include all the fees, for one thing. The administration has finally listed and cataloged a “comprehensive” list of current fees, per Mousa.

An ordinance will be filed setting fees to the level they are on the city’s website, as municipal code on fees is outdated.

Mousa proposed bringing a more complete schematic to the Finance Committee later this year.

Boyer pushed back, saying that in previous years a list was provided, and she wanted a list to review.

“There’s hundreds of fees out there,” Councilman Matt Schellenberg said, urging a “complete review by the first quarter of next year.”

In total, there are 58 pages of fees.

“I don’t want to be in this position next year in the budget,” Boyer contended.

Chairman Dennis wants to ensure that fees cover costs, decreasing the need to borrow to cover shortfalls.

Fees will, for now, stay at current FY levels.


The magic and mystery continue Thursday afternoon with a romp through Jacksonville’s police and fire & rescue budgets.

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