Posts Tagged ‘Jax’

Jacksonville mulls ‘block party’ moratorium

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

A bill filed by Reggie Brown in the Jacksonville City Council this week would institute a 90-day moratorium on “block party” gatherings.
The legislation (2017-196) posits “a legitimate public purpose in imposing a temporary moratorium on permitting recreational street closings … ‘block parties’ within the City, to allow the City time to create appropriate local regulations and standards.”
Brown’s motivation for filing the bill came up in a discussion of council funded community events this week, in which he noted the inconsistency between the city allowing block parties on streets, while discouraging similar gatherings in public parks.
In gatherings in parks, Brown noted a double standard. Unorganized groups can congregate in parks, whereas for organized groups that may want to rent a stage and the like, costs and permitting obligations compound.
Brown has had to convince some recalcitrant council members of the need for council-sponsored community events in the past, and this latest bill is part of that continuing education effort, he told us.
“Our policies are not where they need to be in order to ensure public safety. It was never my intent to discontinue block parties,” Brown said, “only to provide a win-win for the community & the applicant. Unfortunately, its easier to block a public street for a party of any type than it is to have that same event in a public park. We have a responsibility to ensure all events on public property is safe from the onset.”
Brown is interested in updates to Section 191 of the city code, which has to do with special events, and Section 664, which deals with parks.
Next week, a meeting is slated between Brown and representatives of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and from there the future of this bill will be more determined.
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Jacksonville leaders’ arguments for state incentives fall on deaf ears in Tallahassee

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Jacksonville may be Ground Zero for the debate about economic incentives. Local leaders want them, but the local Florida House delegation does not.
This week, yet another prominent person in Jacksonville’s City Hall sounded the alarm for state incentives via Enterprise Florida.
The Jacksonville Daily Record reports that local OED head Kirk Wendland made the case for Enterprise Florida on Tuesday to local stakeholders.
Wendland’s quotes are so on message with Gov. Rick Scott that they could have come out of his press shop.
“If any of you know any senators and you have any conversations with them, please convey that it’s serious. We are counting on them to save Enterprise Florida,” Wendland said.
To hear him tell it, the merry-go-round of economic development is slowing: “just the discussion of Enterprise Florida not being there, and not having a state economic development agency, has absolutely affected the deal flow that we have seen over the past couple of months.”
Consultants — the kind that handle site visits for companies — aren’t biting, saying “we’ll come talk to you” after the incentive fight wraps.
If Enterprise Florida is cut, it “will have a material impact on us being able to compete for major projects here in Florida, in Jacksonville specifically,” Wendland told the Daily Record.
Wendland’s words echo the positions of two members of the city council, Jim Love and Aaron Bowman (whose day job is with the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce).
Bowman and Love are pushing a resolution to affirm support for Enterprise Florida, which they believe is especially important for Jacksonville compared to other major metros in the state.
The salient numbers for Councilman Love: 5,000 jobs and $650M in private capital investment since July 2015.
Even before the council resolution, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry spoke to our Northeast Florida bureau about the need for incentives.
“We use incentives – local incentives and state incentives through Enterprise Florida

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Movement in Jacksonville begins to ban tobacco sales to those under 21

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

The city of Jacksonville’s municipal code has taken a gradualist approach to tobacco prohibition — and it’s not done yet, if a recently-filed bill is any indication.
In 1973, the consolidated city passed an ordinance banning smoking in various places in the city.
Then, a fortnight later, a second ordinance was passed clarifying that prohibition would not apply to private gatherings.
In 1977, the city passed an ordinance prohibiting smoking during city council meetings. Among its co-sponsors: Ander Crenshaw and Jake Godbold.
In 1980, an ordinance was passed prohibiting the sale of smoking materials to minors.
In 1985, smoking in city owned buildings, including workplaces, was stamped out.
The year 1990 saw new ordinance code designed to restrict children’s access to tobacco.
In 1998, the council passed a resolution seeking to regulate tobacco in a more “stringent” manner than permitted by state law.
And in 2012, a resolution was passed “urging” the elimination of “flavored-tobacco” sales, “by any means other than vendor-assisted sales.”
That latter resolution was co-sponsored by current Jacksonville City Council VP John Crescimbeni.
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Crescimbeni isn’t done with tobacco legislation.
He filed one bill this week, and has another in the hopper, he told FloridaPolitics.com on Thursday.
The bill (2017-211) filed this week is in support of twin bills in the Florida Legislature that would urge Florida to become a so-called Tobacco 21 state.
The proposals (SB 1138 and HB 1093) would help lower the number of young adults who become addicted to tobacco and cut down on the state’s leading cause of preventable death.
Crescimbeni has been working with Tobacco 21, representatives of which spoke to a council committee this year.
The councilman’s logic: a ban of sales to those under the age of 21 would help to keep tobacco products out of the hands and lungs of those under the age of 18, as those over 21 aren’t typically “mingling” with minors.
The bill itself cites

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Fire union joins other Jax bargaining groups in approving pension deal

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Another day, another big win for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.
The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters overwhelmingly approved the city’s pension offer, which sees raises for current employees and a defined contribution plan for future hires, Wednesday night.
JAFF head Randy Wyse wrote in an email that “the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters have finished voting on the tentative agreement between the COJ and IAFF.  The firefighters approved the agreement 77% for and 23% against.  The chief officers approved 86% for and 14% against.  The contract passes with a majority vote from the Firefighters.”
Curry wrote that “today represents another step toward solving Jacksonville’s pension crisis once and for all in a way that is good for taxpayers, first responders, and the future of our city. I thank IAFF union leadership and membership for working with me and reaching this historic agreement.”
The fire union joins the local Fraternal Order of Police, AFSCME, and LIUNA in approving the deals, which involve raises across the board and the defined contribution plan with a 25 percent city match.
The remaining bits of drama include a Friday meeting of the Police and Fire Pension Fund, which does not have a right to vote on the deal according to the city’s general counsel.
From there, the city council must vote on the deal — and despite the council’s pliant nature to this administration, individual members have began to balk — even on live mikes — about the lack of specificity from the mayor’s office.
The post Fire union joins other Jax bargaining groups in approving pension deal appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Campaign finance trouble bubbles up for Kim Daniels

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Before Rep. Kim Daniels ran for the State House in 2016, she ran for re-election for the Jacksonville City Council.
In that capacity, Daniels had some campaign finance issues, as Jacksonville’s Folio Weekly reported in February 2015.
Daniels used $4,000 of campaign funds to promote her book, The Demon Dictionary, in a religious magazine called Shofar.
Daniels also offered editorials in the magazine, and no disclaimers marking the communiques as campaign communications were on offer.
A local activist/journalist, David Vandygriff of JaxGay.com, filed an FEC complaint, and in March of 2016, staff recommended to the commission that there was probable cause to believe that an election code violation might have occurred.
A year later — Feb. 28, to be exact — it was revealed that the FEC asserts three potential counts of violations of the law.
Count 1 states that on or about March 1, 2014, Daniels used campaign funds to defray normal living expenses.
That violates Statute 106.1405, which asserts that  contributions cannot be used “to defray normal living expenses for the candidate or the candidate’s family, other than expenses actually incurred for transportation, meals, and lodging by the candidate or a family member during travel in the course of the campaign.
Count 2 asserts a prohibited expenditure during the same time frame, violating 106.19(1)(d).
Count 3 asserts a report of false information on or about April 9, 2014, violating 106.19(1)(c) — a date that coincides with when her campaign finance information would have been filed.
Vandygriff notes that the first count was outside the scope of his original complaint.
Daniels’ campaign finance reports were idiosyncratic.
She seeded her re-election campaign with $50,000, then as the campaign progressed, had small dollar donations that were as low as $2.
Her expenditures began in March 2014 with the $4,000 ad in Shofar, continuing on with a lot of less-than-transparent notations for advertisements, payments and refunded payments, and a lot of money

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Jacksonville General Counsel: PFPF looped out of pension vote

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

On Wednesday, Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel informed the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund that it has no voice in the current pension reform package.
“Our office has reviewed these issues closely and as described below, from the Florida Constitution on down to the 2015 pension reform agreement (2015 Agreement), such matters are solely within the domain of the City and Unions, and not the Board,” Gabriel asserted in the letter.
“Because the 2015 Agreement specifically contemplates that future retirement benefit changes would be negotiated by the City and its police and firefighter unions, and because that is precisely what happened in 2017, the 2015 Agreement does not need to be amended to reflect the 2017 retirement benefit changes,” Gabriel added.
This report comes in the same week that Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry extended the Mar. 15 deadline for a vote out two days, so that the PFPF could weigh in at its Friday meeting.
The Curry administration met with four of five members of the board of trustees in recent weeks.
In February, the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees balked at a Mar. 15 deadline to vote on the city’s latest pension plan.
The board had worried that there would not be enough time to review the data of the new plan, which offers raises and uniformity of benefits for current employees, while providing a new defined contribution plan for future hires — offering a 25 percent city match and assurances that death and disability benefits would substantially be the same as they are for current employees.
The Curry administration took necessary steps to educate the board on the plan, but it seems that the general counsel’s ultimate position is that the board has no authority on this matter.
General Counsel Gabriel has, since Curry took office, repeatedly reminded the PFPF that it is a subsidiary

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Jacksonville City Council ‘community events’ policy up for review

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Jacksonville City Councilmen Bill Gulliford and Reggie Brown convened Wednesday to revisit an issue from months back: “community events” in the council districts.
Bill 2016-489 allocated $70,000 to be split up among the 19 council members, for the purposes of staging educational community events in districts.
For Brown, this issue is critical — his constituents often have questions about city services.
Among the legislation’s terms: city dollars would only pay for internal costs, such as city resources relative to police and fire/rescue, bleachers, and so on.
Though legislation got through after an extensive review process, Brown still has an issue, and a desire to assist community organizations that might seek to host events, with “simple things like stages and bleachers.”
The hard costs to the city for a four hour community event: just north of $2,000.
Brown noted that those costs add up quickly in a $70,000 budget split 19 ways.
“The city should be responsible for hosting activities in the park,” Brown said.
Gulliford noted the fluid distinction between what is and what isn’t a community group, especially related to associations without a formal structure.
This got to the heart of Brown’s concerns.
“At any park, 1000 people can show up, and [police and fire and rescue] are not out there. It’s better for folks to be unorganized,” Brown said, given that an organized group establishing the same burden would have mandates to have a certain amount of public safety workers out there.
Likewise, Brown said, the city permits “block parties” — street closures between the hours of 8 am and 11 pm, contingent on signed approval of 60 percent of residents whose ingress and egress would be impacted.
“Right now, it’s cheaper to take it to the streets than to our parks,” Brown said, noting that block parties are harder to manage than park events and contain the same liability concerns for the city.

The post

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Reggie Gaffney draws second challenger for Jacksonville City Council

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Despite the election for Jacksonville City Council seats being two years away, a second candidate has jumped in to oppose incumbent Reggie Gaffney.
Marc McCullough, who ran in 2011 and 2015, is running again in District 7.
In 2015, McCullough drew 408 votes — good for 3.5 percent — in the first election.
McCullough’s entry follows that of Chaussee Gibson, who filed last week.
McCullough conducted a 2015 candidate interview with the Florida Times-Union, in which he outlined his positions on the issues of the day.
Gaffney has not filed to run for re-election yet; what is clear, however, is that people in the district see him as vulnerable.

The post Reggie Gaffney draws second challenger for Jacksonville City Council appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Jacksonville City Council moves microlending, ex-offender jobs, travel budget bills

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

On a Tuesday agenda largely bereft of drama, the Jacksonville City Council moved bills related to microlending for small businesses, jobs for ex-offenders, and a boost for the council’s travel budget.
All approvals were unanimous.
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Microfinance: 2016-486 revives the city’s Access to Capital program for Jacksonville’s Small and Emerging Business program, allowing microfinancing from $5,000 to $100,000 for Jacksonville’s small and emerging businesses.
A sum of $979,380 will be provided for this third-party administered program from the city. Of that money, $150,000 goes to administrative capital, with the balance going toward the JSEB capital pool.
The hope among policy makers: that more loans can be advanced to local small and emerging businesses. The previous pace was 10 a year, and the hope is that more loans — to be granted at an 8.99 percent interest rate for up to five years — can be offered.
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Ex-offender jobs: A watered-down version of a bill (2017-35) requiring that city contractors hire ex-offenders looks poised to get through the full council.
The substitute version of the bill allows contractors to hire ex-offenders who did not emerge from city-subsidized re-entry programs while requiring “satisfactory evidence” of at least an attempt to hire an ex-offender.
Program providers would be responsible for providing a list of ex-offenders with skill sets, and contact contractors after they win the bid.
The Associated Builders and Contractors balked at the original version of the bill, asserting that it imposed an onerous burden on contractors by requiring them to do the legwork of reaching out to program providers — that argument proved more persuasive to council members as the bill worked through committees, leading to a deferral and the current substitute two weeks prior.
Councilman Al Ferraro noted that, while he is “all in favor of helping offenders,” he’s “not for big government,” which gave him pause on this bill.
Bill sponsor Garrett Dennis explained what had

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Anna Brosche closes gap in race for Jacksonville City Council presidency

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

On Tuesday, the race to be the next president of the Jacksonville City Council tightened up, with Anna Brosche getting her fifth commitment.
Matt Schellenberg pledged to support his fellow Republican, joining Sam Newby, Al Ferraro, Aaron Bowman and the candidate herself in support of Brosche.
Brosche has five pledges. The current council vice-president, John Crescimbeni, has seven committed supporters (Tommy Hazouri, Bill Gulliford, Greg Anderson, Jim Love, Scott Wilson, Joyce Morgan, and Crescimbeni himself.
It takes ten to win.
Currently uncommitted: Danny Becton, President Lori Boyer, Reggie Gaffney, Katrina Brown, Garrett Dennis, Reggie Brown, and Doyle Carter.
Gaffney, Brown, Dennis, and Brown are all Democrats, like Crescimbeni. They held a meeting last week to hear what candidates for the top job had to offer their districts. They have yet to commit to any candidate, and Gaffney was a question mark until the vote itself last year, when he voted for Crescimbeni, swinging the election.
The other three are Republicans.
Meanwhile, the race for veep is also lively.
Aaron Bowman, going into Tuesday, had four commitments, compared to three for Scott Wilson.
Bowman will attempt to secure more pledges on Tuesday afternoon; this piece will be updated.
The post Anna Brosche closes gap in race for Jacksonville City Council presidency appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Man pleads guilty in beating death of 2-year-old after ‘accident’ on bed

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

A Jacksonville toddler died after being struck with a plastic coat hanger until it broke because the 2-year-old girl had an “accident” on the bed of her mother’s boyfriend.
Jamarius Devonti Graham used a belt and hangers in the past to teach the girl potty training — she had already been spanked an estimated 20 times — says a newspaper report.
The Duval County state attorney’s office confirmed a medical examiner’s report, spokesman David Chapman told FloridaPolitics.com Tuesday.
On April 21, 2016, Graham was baby-sitting Aaliyah Lewis when the incident occurred. After the mother discovered injuries to her daughter, she and Graham waited 90 minutes before seeking medical attention for Aaliyah, even after her breathing became labored, according to the Florida Times-Union. The newspaper had cited a report by the Department of Children and Services (DCF) about the episode.
Graham, 21, pleaded guilty in a Jacksonville courtroom to aggravated child abuse in connection to Aaliyah’s beating death and faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if found guilty, Chapman said.
“The girl, whose body was tattered with fresh bruises and lacerations, was dead when she arrived at UF Health Jacksonville,” the Times-Union article said. “An autopsy found that she had multiple traumatic injuries to her head, torso and extremities, as well as fluid and swelling in her lungs and brain. But the Medical Examiner’s Office could not determine the cause of death.”
The couple had apparently communicated multiple times by phone throughout the day Aaliyah died, according to the report, the newspaper said. They spoke around midday, too, and Graham told the mother he had disciplined Aaliyah for the accident on the bed, assuring the mother he hadn’t been too harsh on the toddler.
But the mother had noticed during a video phone call that Aaliyah was crying.
When Graham picked her up from work, she noticed

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Jacksonville City Council contemplates crowded agenda Tuesday

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

There is never a dull moment at a meeting of the Jacksonville City Council. On Tuesday, councilors mull microfinance, ex-offender jobs, and travel budgets.
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Microfinance: 2016-486 revives the city’s Access to Capital program for Jacksonville’s Small and Emerging Business program, allowing microfinancing from $5,000 to $100,000 for Jacksonville’s small and emerging businesses.
A sum of $932,032.65 will be provided for this third-party administered program from the city. Of that money, $425,000 goes to administrative capital, with the balance going toward the JSEB capital pool, which will have $829,000 available after this appropriation.
The hope among policy makers: that more loans can be advanced to local small and emerging businesses. The previous pace was 10 a year, and the hope is that more loans — to be granted at an 8.99 percent interest rate for up to five years — can be offered.
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Ex-offender jobs: A watered-down version of a bill (2017-35) requiring that city contractors hire ex-offenders looks poised to get through the full council.
The substitute version of the bill allows contractors to hire ex-offenders who did not emerge from city-subsidized re-entry programs, while requiring “satisfactory evidence” of at least an attempt to hire an ex-offender.
Program providers would be responsible for providing a list of ex-offenders with skill sets, and contact contractors after they win the bid.
The Associated Builders and Contractors balked at the original version of the bill, asserting that it imposed an onerous burden on contractors by requiring them to do the legwork of reaching out to program providers — that argument proved more persuasive to council members as the bill worked through committees, leading to a deferral and the current substitute two weeks prior.
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Safe Travels: One unintended consequence of a hard cap of $3,000 on travel budgets for council members has been an impediment to traveling to association events, such as those held by the Florida

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Jacksonville PFPF to vote on pension deal Friday

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

In February, the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees balked at a Mar. 15 deadline to vote on the city’s latest pension plan.
The board had worried that there would not be enough time to review the data of the new plan, which offers raises and uniformity of benefits for current employees, while providing a new defined contribution plan for future hires — offering a 25 percent city match and assurances that death and disability benefits would substantially be the same as they are for current employees.
Since then, the Fraternal Order of Police and the corrections officers had approved the deal, with the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters voting on it this week.
And now, after a prolonged period of negotiations, which included candid emails between PFPF Trustee Board Chair Richard Tuten and the city’s chief administrative officer, Sam Mousa, the board and the city have struck a compromise.
The board will vote on the deal two days after the city’s unilaterally imposed deadline: Friday, March 17, at its regular 9 a.m. board meeting, according to emails between Mousa and the heads of the police and fire unions.
If this vote is successful, the pension deal will move on to the Jacksonville City Council, whose members have serious questions about the actual hard numbers in the deal — numbers that have yet to be produced for public review by the Lenny Curry administration.
Curry contends that the deal will save the city money, saying that the 25 percent city match is far short of what the city pays for pension costs for current employees.
“Right now we’re spending 119 percent of for [pension costs] for every JSO employee and fireman,” Curry said. “If we hired you today, we would take your salary and put 119 percent of that in the pension fund. That’s not sustainable …. 25 percent

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Jacksonville fundraising swing for Andrew Gillum on Sunday

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Despite an inauspicious launch to his gubernatorial campaign, one which included revelations that city money was used to buy campaign software, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is undeterred from his campaign for the 2018 Democratic nomination.
Sunday finds Gillum in Jacksonville, for what organizers are calling one of “his first round of fundraisers in the First Coast.”
The event will be held March 19 at The Space Gallery (120 E. Forsyth Street), starting at 3 p.m.
Suggested donation levels are as modest as $50, though attendees are urged to splurge, donating up to $3,000 if so moved.
Gillum’s last public appearance in Jacksonville was roughly a month ago, during what can be called the pre-candidacy phase of his effort.
At that appearance, Gillum previewed a strategy: an “18 month view of engagement,” one that would be central to his strategy of going beyond supervoters to reach less frequent voters who lean Democratic.
Gillum described Democratic values being “under attack” in Florida for a long time, framing the 2018 election as a “real pivotal moment not only in the country but in the state.”
“My hope,” Gillum said, “is that after 20 years of turning the state over to the Republican Party,” that Democrats have a “fighting chance.”
To that end, engaging “black and brown” voters was key, Gillum said.
Gillum, during a conversation after his remarks, noted his belief that the race for governor won’t come down to who has the biggest regional base of voters, but “what the candidate is saying” and “energy.”
Energy is key. But so are contributions.
On Sunday, local Gillum partisans will have a chance to determine, with their pocketbooks, how much that energy is worth to them.
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Jacksonville corrections officers overwhelmingly approve pension deal

Monday, March 13th, 2017

On Monday, another Jacksonville union — the correctional officers — overwhelmingly approved the pension deal on offer from the city.
Of sergeants/lieutenants/captains, 88.8 percent voted in favor of the deal; the raw tally was 72 to 9.
Of officers, 87.53 percent voted in favor of the deal, with 12.16 percent against; the raw tally was 316 to 44.
The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue workers vote on this deal this week. Additionally, the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees may vote on the deal Friday.
Correctional officers will get a 3 percent lump sum pay out, followed by a phased-in 20 percent pay raise over three years, and benefits for all current employees returned to pre-2015 levels.
Future hires will get a defined contribution plan with a 25 percent city match.
Defined contribution plans for public safety workers are still a novelty on the municipal level, but what is clear is that these unions thus far have not resisted these changes for new hires.
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Jacksonville leaders move on human trafficking, an ‘industry without borders’

Monday, March 13th, 2017

As we previewed last week, Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri is looking to implement the next phase of the city’s response to human trafficking.
In 2016, the city began a response, with awareness signs posted in strip clubs and massage parlors. However, Hazouri believes more can be done — and on Monday, the veteran pol met with representatives from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the 4th Circuit State Attorney’s Office to iron out specifics related to coordination of response.
Councilman Hazouri referred to human trafficking as one of the most severe human rights challenges of the century, adding that Florida has the third-most human trafficking in the country, and Jacksonville is number three in the state in incident rates.
State Attorney Melissa Nelson‘s office took an initial focus on the problem when she came into office in January, via hiring a special prosecutor to focus on the issue.
Mac Heavener, Nelson’s assistant state attorney, has worked on the issue on the federal level since 2008 as a U.S. attorney. The SAO’s newly-instituted human rights division hones in on the issue also.
Heavener noted that the SAO works with the sheriff’s office on the local level, and the FBI in cases that transcend local jurisdiction.
Heavener noted that juveniles are “generally trafficked for commercial sex acts,” and there is prima facie proof in those cases.
In terms of adult trafficking, labor trafficking and domestic sex trafficking are among the sectors where the crisis is most acute. Labor trafficking is difficult to track, Heavener said.
Sheriff Mike Williams noted the importance of “awareness” in combating the epidemic.
“Applying what we know to human trafficking … having a dedicated group of investigators … are incredibly important,” Williams said.
“I still don’t believe I can tell you how much human trafficking we have in Jacksonville, but we continue to dig,” said Williams.
One issue victims deal with after

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Mike Williams, Tim Tebow to speak on Monday in Jacksonville

Monday, March 13th, 2017

A current Jacksonville Sheriff and a former Heisman Trophy winner both have speaking engagements in Jacksonville Monday evening.
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Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute students will have a unique opportunity to hear local Sheriff Mike Williams on Monday at 6 p.m.
Williams will be involved in a “classroom presentation and policy discussion” via a class at the JU PPI, in room 128 at the Davis College of Business.
RSVPs are requested and strongly encouraged for this event; email [email protected] for more information.
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Williams is not the only speaker of note in Jacksonville Monday.
Former Florida Gators QB Tim Tebow takes a break from Spring Training with the New York Mets to speak at the Florida Forum at 7:30 p.m.
Expected to be at the event at the Times-Union Performing Arts Center: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who has the event on his official calendar for Monday.

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Pastor challenges ‘missing in action’ Reggie Gaffney for Jacksonville City Council seat

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Chaussee Gibson may not be a household name in the Jacksonville area.
But Gibson, a native of Jacksonville who preaches at the St. Johns Baptist Church on Jacksonville’s Eastside, has name identification in Jacksonville City Council District 7.
And he filed this week to run for the seat, currently held by first-term Democrat Reggie Gaffney … giving us the first competitive city council race in the 2019 cycle (assuming Gaffney files for re-election, that is).
Gibson’s decision was a culmination of a “lot of concerns” about Gaffney’s tenure in recent months, he told FloridaPolitics.com on Friday.
“The city councilman in our area has not done anything,” Gibson said, and “people want to move forward.”
Gibson — no relation to Sen. Audrey Gibson — emailed Gaffney with concerns, but got no response.
Those concerns?
Struggles the youth face on the Eastside — Jacksonville’s most challenged community.
Crime and drug activities in the district. And safety issues, such as cars approaching 70 MPH on neighborhood streets.
In that context, Gaffney is “missing in action.”
And regarding Gaffney’s history of questionable business dealings, which include Medicaid overbilling at his business, a homestead exemption double-dip, and other seeming anomalies, Gibson said Gaffney was “in a shady area.”
And according to Gibson, Gaffney wasn’t even the best member of his own family to hold the council seat.
Reggie Gaffney succeeded his brother Johnny Gaffney in the seat; Gibson contends that Johnny, who resigned to get trounced by Reggie Fullwood in a special election for State House, was the better of the two Gaffneys.
The last straw for Gibson: a Gaffney no-show to the “Eastside Movement” parade last month, though he donated money to the event.
“We don’t want his money. We want to see his face in the district. He neglected us. We expected him to do better,” Gibson said.
Gibson is ready to debate Gaffney on the issues. Gibson also claims to have financial commitments

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Jay Fant for Attorney General? Intrigue in Jacksonville

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Republican State Rep. Jay Fant has the safest of safe seats on Jacksonville’s deep-red Westside.
However, in the even deeper-red Florida House, he found himself on the losing side of this week’s debate about Enterprise Florida.
Fant spoke passionately and futilely about the need to maintain incentive programs, a position not shared by most of the legislative body.
However, there is a narrative suggesting the Florida House is not Fant’s end game.
Rep. Fant, who has not filed for re-election, is reportedly mulling a run for Florida Attorney General in 2018, multiple credible sources asserted Friday … even as the would-be candidate thus far has demurred to comment.
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Last week, Fant held a finance meeting at the home of Jacksonville power broker John Rood, where he urged people to donate to his political committee, Pledge This Day.
If Fant intends to run statewide, that meeting had better have been beneficial: at the end of February, Fant had a meager $38,000 on hand.
While one can buy a solid new car with that, one would not be able to run a campaign against a more deep-pocketed candidate, such as fundraising machine Ron DeSantis or a number of other people who may want to be AG.
Locals, meanwhile, are bearish on Fant’s chances, questioning his ability to raise money and citing his limited statewide profile in their assessments.
The end result of a Fant run for Attorney General, they suggest, would be more interesting in terms of the shakeup in House District 15 than in terms of Fant running a competitive campaign for AG.
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The prospect of a statewide run gives an interesting context to Fant’s decision in October, running unopposed, to spend $70,000 on a television ad in the Jacksonville market to expand his name identification.
Fant needs some help there: in a Spring 2016 poll of prospective candidates for what was an open seat in Florida’s 4th

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Jacksonville re-ups Friends of Hemming Park contract for 6 months, $415K

Friday, March 10th, 2017

In Jacksonville, friendships aren’t meant to last forever. But in the case of Friends of Hemming Park, they are renewable in six-month terms.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry wrote senior staff this week with the news that the once-controversial FOHP contract would be re-upped through the end of September.
“Based on our discussions with Bill Prescott, it is clear he is passionate about the future of Hemming … committed to performance metrics and accountability,” Curry said.
The mayor wants to give them a 6 month extension, though he wants the board to know the mayor’s office is “serious about results.”
An ordinance (2017-198) has been filed for the allocation.
“The Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department will transfer a total of $415,000 to the Friends of Hemming Park. $240,000 from Parks Playgrounds & Centers for operational expenses and $175,000 from completed capital projects and Countywide Parks Upgrades/Maintenance/Repairs to upgrade the landscaping and make hardscape improvements within Hemming Park,” asserts the fact sheet.
“These capital improvements include landscaping and hardscape improvements throughout the entire park. All impovements will be contracted out. It is anticipated that the improvements will be completed by the end of FY 2017,” continues the document.
Deferral of an amendment to the FOHP contract, asserts the fact sheet, “will be detrimental to the best interests of the community because the Friends of Hemming Park will be working to leverage our dollars with private contributions.”

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Jacksonville to redouble efforts against human trafficking

Friday, March 10th, 2017

On Monday morning, Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri will meet with representatives from the State Attorney’s Office, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and others with an aim toward eliminating the scourge of human trafficking.
Hazouri, who was successful in a push to get a law through in 2016 (2016-130), which mandated awareness signs to be posted at massage parlors and strip clubs, believes that the 2016 legislation was a “small step forward,” allowing more to be done.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was indispensable in enforcing sign placement, and volunteer groups took the initiative of posting signs elsewhere also, Hazouri said.
The signs include the national hotline number, allowing those who might be victims of human trafficking, and those who might be aware that it is happening, to call up and offer law enforcement tips.
Hazouri would like to see signs in labor camps, at JAXPORT, and other places where international victims of human trafficking may be present.
Additionally, Hazouri wants to ensure that efforts from the State Attorney’s Office (which is ramping up a Human Rights division) and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office complement, rather than duplicate, each other.
Hazouri also believes that the victim services building has capacity to offer housing and treatment to victims of human trafficking.
The ultimate goal: “to stop human trafficking in our city.”
The coordinated effort, of course, will be multi-jurisdictional.
In October, the FBI made 26 arrests in Jacksonville, via the Operation Cross Country human trafficking sting.
All parties — federal, state, and local — would concur that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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Ron Salem clears $30K in first month of Jacksonville council candidacy

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Republican Ron Salem, running to replace termed-out John Crescimbeni in the Jacksonville City Council’s At-Large District 2, cleared $30,000 in February.
Salem, an establishment favorite, had the kind of donations typically associated with that status.
Among the $1,000 donors: local land use lawyer and lobbyist Steve Diebenow, whose wife hosted a Salem “meet and greet”; the Driver, McAfee, Peek & Hawthorne Law Firm; Ernie Issac; the Vestcor Companies (John Rood); a couple of groups associated with developer Toney Sleiman; the Jacksonville Kennel Club and the Orange Park Kennel Club.
Salem, whose campaign is being run by Tim Baker and Brian Hughes, is running unopposed.
A hallmark of their candidates: strong fundraising at the outset of the campaign, which can often discourage candidates without resources from jumping into the race as nuisance candidates.
Former Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop is mulling his own run for the AL-2 seat.
Were that to happen, there would be a reprise of the 2015 mayoral campaign, in which the Baker/Hughes team seemed to relish scoring shots on the Bishop campaign.
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Opioid overdose crisis becomes top priority for Jacksonville policy makers

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

The numbers are stark for those who care about public policy in Jacksonville. And the need for solutions is urgent.
Overdoses, at last count, end four times as many lives as homicides in Duval County, with 2016’s count of 464 casualties more than doubling 2015’s count of 201.
Caucasians represent 86 percent of the deaths, and over half of those passing away are in their 30s and 40s
911 calls for ODs to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department have tripled, with a call every two hours now. Narcan administrations: up 500 percent. JFRD responded to over 3,411 calls in 2016, and the cost of transporting OD victims could near $4.5M this year.
Councilman Bill Gulliford and other city council members were on hand — as was Mayor Lenny Curry.
Curry noted that he “moved some things around to be here,” to address the “tragic epidemic.”
“We take this seriously. We understand that families have suffered because of this. And we have to get it right.”
Councilman Gulliford noted the statistics, including the “131 percent increase” year over year.
The goal of the meeting: to talk awareness, prevention, and solutions, Gulliford noted.
Gulliford noted that extends to his own family. He spent time last weekend talking to his grandchildren about these issues.
“I hope I made an impression on them. I pray I made an impression on them,” the councilman said.
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Richard Preston, a recovered addict, told his “hellacious story” of recovery from drugs and alcohol, using the exhorting style that blended the rolling cadences of an evangelist with the patter of a traveling salesman.
He has been sober for 11 years.
“I know that Jacksonville can be the city against which others are measured in the war against opioids,” Preston, a Jacksonville native said, describing how cocaine and other drugs derailed his promising academic career, then his work life.
“This is our opportunity,” Preston said to

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Jay Fant is down on bill that would end Enterprise Florida

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

State Rep. Jay Fant says he will not vote for a bill, backed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, that seeks to abolish the Enterprise Florida economic development organization.
After Thursday’s floor session, he told FloridaPolitics.com he doesn’t “like going against leadership on a vote, and I stick with them on just about everything, but this just isn’t one of those things.”
The Jacksonville Republican had asked critical questions of bill sponsor Paul Renner, a former political rival, in the floor session.
Fant, first elected in 2014, said killing Enterprise Florida “will hinder our ability to bring businesses to Florida.” He instead favors heightened scrutiny of the agency, which is funded mainly with public dollars.
The entity is “the right thing at the right time,” he said.
The bill (HB 7005) gets rid of the organization and many business incentive programs favored by Gov. Rick Scott. Corcoran regards them as “corporate welfare.”
“I’m not passing judgment on particular projects,” Fant added. “I would just love to see us back off from where we are on the bill now.”
The bill could go to a final vote as early as Friday; as a Corcoran priority, it’s virtually ensured to pass.
But it faces an uphill slog in the Senate, where Republican leaders—including Appropriations Committee chair Jack Latvala—back Scott on keeping Enterprise Florida and incentives in general.
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Lenny Curry, Rob Bradley committees and Travis Cummings pace Northeast Florida February fundraising

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

No Northeast Florida incumbents face competitive races in 2018. Yet the fundraising continues anyway, as February evidenced.
Notable for performance: two Northeast Florida political committees that cleared the $100K threshold for February money.
And one Clay County legislator who had a strong month.
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One of the PACs that hit six figures: “Build Something That Lasts,” the political committee of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry,
Curry’s committee raised $110,000 in February. That sum follows a $63,000 January, and brings the committee near $240,000 on hand.
Curry’s committee secured the $110,000 from five donors, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Peter Rummell, Gary Chartrand, and J.B. Coxwell.
While these are usual donors, the committee also got a $25,000 donation from Mori Hosseini, the CEO of ICI Homes who is a noted power player in GOP politics.
For those monitoring Curry’s appeal outside of Northeast Florida, the Hosseini donation is a strong indication of what may be a trend.
Curry still hasn’t filed to run for re-election in 2019, and his name is still in the rumor mill to replace Jeff Atwater as CFO.
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The strongest committee performance in February in NE Florida: “Working for Florida’s Families,” the committee of Sen. Rob Bradley.
Bradley’s committee brought in $120,500 in February, bringing total cash on hand over $360,000.
The leading donor at $25,000, RAI Services, the parent company for R.J. Reynolds, American Snuff, and other fine tobacco products available at stores near you.
American Traffic Solutions gave $10,000, as did licensed medical marijuana company Costa Farms (a regular supporter of Bradley), and Floracann, the cannabis subsidiary of Jacksonville’s Loop Nurseries.
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The best month for any legislator, by far, was from Rep. Travis Cummings in Clay County’s HD 18.
Cummings brought in $34,150 of new money, pushing his total cash on hand over $47,000 – a good indication that the pressure the governor put on him over not supporting Enterprise Florida hasn’t affected Cummings’ bottom line.
PACs and

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Charles McBurney files for 4th circuit judgeship

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Former State Rep. Charles McBurney opened a campaign account Mar. 1 to start his race for a judgeship in Florida’s 4th Circuit.
Currently, McBurney is unopposed for the 2018 election.
Of course, last time the Jacksonville Republican was up for a judgeship (via gubernatorial appointment), by appointment in 2016, he faced an opponent more powerful than any on the ballot: the NRA’s Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer.
McBurney,  who chaired the House Judiciary Committee in 2016, tabled a bill that would have shifted the burden of proof from defendants to prosecutors under the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.
“In order to gain favor with prosecutors, he refused to hold a hearing on the ‘Burden of Proof’ bill, SB-344 by Sen. Rob Bradley, which restores the presumption of innocence in self-defense cases,” Hammer wrote, saying that “McBurney, a former prosecutor himself, wants prosecutors to help him become a judge so he engaged in political pandering to prosecutors. McBurney traded your rights for personal gain.”
McBurney, in response to thousands of emails generated by the NRA’s “Action Alert,” attempted his own ill-fated campaign to enlist testimonials.
He was powerless against the Hammer, however, and Robert Dees got the judgeship.
It will be interesting to see who emerges to oppose McBurney in the upcoming weeks.
McBurney is well-regarded in Jacksonville, but a concerted statewide lobbying campaign with money behind it could make McBurney’s race one to watch.
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Aaron Bowman takes lead in Jacksonville City Council VP race

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

On Wednesday, Jacksonville City Councilman Aaron Bowman continued his push for the vice-presidency of the 19-person legislative body with some success.
Bowman solicited pledges from Tommy Hazouri, Greg Anderson, and Sam Newby, in an attempt to break a 3-3 deadlock with his opponent, Scott Wilson.
Newby was sold without little prodding, noting that while he and Bowman were on opposite sides of the push to expand the city’s Human Rights Ordinance, he thought Bowman was the “right person” for leadership in the council.
“You’ve been in leadership your entire life,” Newby remarked.
Newby’s pledge gave Bowman a 4-3 lead, but Hazouri and Anderson proved to be tougher sells.
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Hazouri, who was Bowman’s only supporter a year before, was reluctant to sign on this time around.
In part, it was because Hazouri — an early supporter of current VP John Crescimbeni for the top job — expressed qualms that Bowman and Anna Brosche (Crescimbeni’s opponent) were a ticket of sorts.
“It’s there and I can’t erase it,” Hazouri said.
Bowman and Brosche pledged to support each other earlier this week.
“John made it easy for me not to vote for him because he signed on with Scott,” Bowman said, calling that a “vote of no confidence.”
Hazouri and Bowman continued to discuss similar issues, with Hazouri noting “perceptions” parties such as the Jacksonville Chamber and the police and fire unions have of Crescimbeni.
Bowman noted that Crescimbeni wasn’t exactly a resounding choice for the VP slot last year.
“It was 10-9,” Bowman said.
Hazouri’s response?
“A winner is a winner.”
_____
 As was the case with Hazouri, Anderson signed on with Crescimbeni’s presidential bid.
And as also was the case, Anderson didn’t sign on, saying he wanted to let the process develop.
However, the discussion was more of common ground and shared priorities than was the case in the Hazouri conversation.
Anderson noted that Bowman saw the president as “an enabler of success, a view I share

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To Russia with love: Jon Huntsman postpones Jacksonville speaking gig

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

The World Affairs Council’s loss is the world stage’s gain.
President Donald Trump appointed Jon Huntsman to be Ambassador to Russia on Wednesday. And for Jacksonville residents, there were hints that deal was struck hours before it went out to the media Wednesday evening.
An internal email to World Affairs Council members told the tale around midday:
“Jon Huntsman, Jr., our March 14 Global Issues Evening speaker, is unable to join us due to rapidly unfolding responsibilities in Washington, D.C. I am sure that you are as disappointed as I am, but know that he is keen to speak to the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville, and has even asked for a ‘rain check’ to do so. We will work to reschedule Ambassador Huntsman.”
Huntsman will be replaced on Mar. 14 by Gen. Philip Breedlove, a four-star Air Force general who helmed the U.S. European Command and NATO’s European Command.
With security anomalies in Europe becoming regularities, Breedlove will have plenty to talk about.
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John Rutherford Homeland Security spending reform bill clears U.S. House committee

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

H.R. 1294, the Reducing Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acquisition Cost Growth Act, seeks to stop wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars by agencies like the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
On Wednesday, the bill — a priority of first-term Republican Rep. John Rutherford — was unanimously approved by the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Rutherford noted the bill “prevents wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars by holding DHS agencies more accountable in administering their major acquisitions programs and by giving Congress greater oversight of troubled programs.”
“Passing this bill will stop the waste of resources and help Congress implement solutions to quickly address any setbacks or cost overruns. I thank the members of the Committee for their bipartisan support of this bill and I look forward to it advancing to the full House,” Rutherford added.
According to the Governmental Accounting Office, DHS has been on a “high-risk” list since 2005, because waste and mismanagement are recurrent plagues for its $7 billion portfolio of programs.

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Jacksonville City Council support for Enterprise Florida builds

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Even as Enterprise Florida faces the chopping block in the Florida House, Jacksonville politicians are seeking to save it while there is still time.
On Wednesday, Councilmen Jim Love and Aaron Bowman met to discuss a resolution of support for the beleaguered EFI, a concept they had discussed a week prior.
The salient numbers for Councilman Love: 5,000 jobs and $650M in private capital investment since July 2015.
Love notes that Jacksonville is the biggest city in Florida, and “should have some sway,” with EFI investment being a “small price to pay to bring jobs to Jacksonville.”
Love’s goal: to keep Enterprise Florida funded at its current level.
“If we stay even,” the councilman said, “we’ll win.”
Representing the city’s Office of Economic Development, Kirk Wendland noted that Jacksonville is “trying to stay in the game.”
“Without anything from the state,” Wendland said, “it will be difficult.”
It’s uncertain how much sway a council resolution will have, given divisions within the Duval Delegation on these incentives.
While Rep. Jay Fant believes that Enterprise Florida can be tweaked, Cord Byrd and Jason Fischer line up more closely with the Richard Corcoran/Paul Renner philosophy on incentives.
Nonetheless, Love hopes for a strong council majority supporting the resolution.
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