Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

A great start for Jaxpolitics thanks to our readers

With 2008 on its way out, everyone is doing a story on their top stories and/or their online numbers.  So we thought we would jump in as well.

Jaxpolitics  began on November 1st, as a site to capture our observations and musings on state and local politics.  In the short time since we began, site views have increased from just over 1,000 views for the month of November to over 4,000 views so far this December (those numbers do not include views by the authors of the site).  That’s quite a feat considering we’re not linked to the Times Union, nor are we linked to Sayfie Review  (although, in all honesty, we would like to be….lol).

Definitely, the top story on Jaxpolitics since the inception of our site has been the election of Matt Shirk as Public Defender – with all of our Shirk posts added together getting nearly 900 views in the month of December alone.  Our November 27th post on considering changing Florida’s system of electing the public defender and state attorney, received over 250 views and is the most viewed post for Jaxpolitics.    Our next highest views went to our Mayport Cruise Terminal and Waste Management no bid contract posts.

On behalf of Jaxpolitics, we want to thank you for visiting our site and for providing comments and insight.  It’s been a great ride so far, and we hope it continues.  All of us here at Jaxpolitics wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , , , , , , , ,

Good for the goose…..

The Attorney General, Bill McCollum, is asking local governments, law enforcement agencies, and public school districts to do a better job at responding to public records requests and to live more Sunshine-y lives.  I see that the State Legislature is noticeably absent from McCollum’s call for transparency.  Granted Jacksonville hasn’t been the best at complying with the Sunshine Law, but the Legislature is even worse.  Wonder why he’s not concerned with them?  Or maybe this is a publicity stunt for a possible US Senate run?

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , ,

Official call for special session is out

Today, the Speaker of the House, Ray Sansom, and the Senate President, Jeff Atwater, issued their joint call for special session to address the $2+ billion shortfall in the present fiscal year budget.  Much of what will be considered during special session closely mirrors the Governor’s agenda.

What’s not up for consideration:

Any increase in alcohol, tobacco products, and cigarette taxes (even though cigarette taxes haven’t increased since 1990).

What’s up for consideration:

Minor adjustments in user fees, sweeping trust fund revenues and balances, and increases in traffic enforcement fees and fines, as well as civil and criminal fees, fines, and penalties.

Also up for consideration is a $10 million dollar pilot stimulus program of loans to small businesses, and streamlining and flexibility (whatever that means) in educational programs, services, and use of funds.

The special session will begin at 11am on Monday, January 5th, and end at 11:59pm on January 16th.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , ,

Ray Sansom’s Uneducated Boss

Ray Sansom, the embattled Speaker of the Florida House, may be spending his time in the Legislature fighting for more funds for his new employer–Northwest Florida State College–but he might also want to consider targeting some of those funds to properly educate his new boss, James Richburg.  Mr. Richburg’s Ed.D in Education/Anthropology from the University of Georgia apparently didn’t do much for his grammar.  This is rather apparent when reading Mr. Richburg’s e-mails (obtained by the St. Pete Times) to Mr. Sansom.  Mr. Richburg offers to give “advise” to the Speaker and decries Charlie Crist as a “populous” Governor.  Of course, “advice” is what Mr. Sansom undoubtedly wanted and Charlie Crist is one person.  While the state he governs is certainly a “populous” state, Mr. Crist would actually fancy himself a “populist.”  

One would assume that English courses are not a priority at Northwest Florida State College.  If indeed they are offered, perhaps President Richburg might benefit from signing up.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , , ,

Vote for Matt Shirk? Yes, really.

You know, we’ve gotten such a great response to our Matt Shirk celebration poll, we thought our readers would love the opportunity to vote for Matt Shirk again.  Yes, really.  This time he’s in the running for the 2nd Annual Worst Prosecutor of the Year on The Agitator, Radley Balko’s blog.  

Yes, our own darling, “pretty boy Matt”,  is in the running with 6 heavy-hitters: US Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan,  Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert, Assistant US Attorney Brett Grayson,  Lake County Illinois Prosecutor Michael Mermel, and the Connecticut prosecutors in the Julie Amero case. 

Please help Matt win this prestigious award.  Click on http://www.theagitator.com/2008/12/22/monday-morning-poll-the-2nd-annual-worst-prosecutor-of-the-year-wopoty-award/ and vote in the poll.

Filed under: Jacksonville, , , , , , , , , , ,

Folio Weekly on Mayport

Folio Weekly has posted their editorial on JaxPort’s proposal to move the cruise terminal to Mayport.  (For what it’s worth, we wish Folio would post more of their material online—it’s much easier than trying to re-type it and properly credit it on our own.)  


We don’t often look to public relations flacks for  straight answers. But occasionally, despite their training and obligations, they let fly with a nugget of truth.

Such is the case with a December 2004 statement by then-JaxPort Authority spokesperson Robert Peek. When asked by The Florida Times-Union about the viability of a cruise ship terminal at Mayport, he responded, “Our analysis shows there is no room at Mayport.” Peek added, “We would need 40 acres of property along the river. There is not 40 acres of undeveloped land at Mayport. We would have to buy homes and businesses.” Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Warren Buffet pockets $224 million from Florida

I’m sure there will be debate as to whether or not this was a good idea, particularly given Florida’s budget issues. Did Buffet find a sucker or Charlie a sugar daddy? Too late for debate, though..the money’s already gone.

Billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. won a $224 million bet that Florida would escape major damage from hurricanes this year.

Florida’s option agreement that would have compelled Buffett to buy $4 billion of bonds to finance storm recovery will expire Dec. 31, Dennis MacKee, a spokesman for the State Board of Administration, said in an interview today. The state earlier paid Buffett $224 million in return for his commitment to buy the debt if needed. The calm season meant Florida had no need to raise the money.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , ,

City contracts to “local” companies

Prior to the holidays, former City Council President Daniel Davis introduced a bill (2008-1055) that would favor local companies bidding on City contracts.  According to the bill summary, the bill intends to

add more specificity to the City’s current policy of giving some preference in the procurement process to local companies versus those that have no Jacksonville or Florida presence.  The changes do so by awarding more points in the professional services evaluation process under the “proximity” criterion to companies headquartered in Jacksonville or having a substantial office presence in the city on a formal graduated scale, and by adjusting the evaluation of the “volume of current and prior work” criterion to give greater points to companies with larger Jacksonville-based staffs. 

In addition, according to a recent TU article, Davis intends to introduce an amendment to his bill that allows companies with secondary offices in Jacksonville that have been doing business in the city for at least five years to receive additional consideration.


Davis’ proposal is scheduled for committee hearings next week.  But before City Council members make up their minds on this proposed ordinance code change, they should read and consider the thoughts of a former county chief of administrative services for a mental health program.  The following column was recently published in the St. Pete Times. 


No local preferences for contracts

By C.D. Chamberlain, Guest Columnist

Back in the days when I was the chief of administrative services for a county mental health program, my boss taught me these three basic axioms for evaluating any proposed public policy:

•What is the policy attempting to do?

•For whose benefit?

•At whose expense?

These three questions assume the basic utilitarian principle: The highest good is to do the most good for the most people. This utilitarian principle evolved in reaction to a hereditary oligarchy that rewarded the very few at the expense of the many.

A subordinate utilitarian principle is: All public expenses must be fairly and equitably borne by all persons. Revenue collection must be equitable and all benefits must likewise be equitable. The goal of our democratic system is assuring that the greatest number of persons receive the greatest benefit.

So, when our newly minted county commissioners opine that county contracts should give preference to local businesses, we have to ask: For whose benefit? At whose expense?

My response to such preference is either sucking in a deep breath or emitting a deeper sigh.

Bid specifications assure that the winner has the ability to perform the contract. The open-bidding process replaces cronyism with competition and assures prudent public purchases. There is no substitute for buying the specified service or product at the lowest possible price. In our imperfect world, this is the best way to make sure the most good is done for the most people.

Why should all taxpayers be saddled with additional cost to provide a benefit to a few preferred bidders? Once special status is granted to any party making a bid, how many other special considerations will be granted? After all, a local firm has the built-in advantage of lower transportation costs. If this home-court advantage cannot produce the winning bid, why should the general public absorb additional expenses for local favoritism? Of course, we know that our commissioners would never give special consideration to a local firm just because it made a campaign contribution.

We all recall that our great nation on occasion granted special privileges based on race, gender, religion, national origin and political affiliation. None of us look back on such favoritism with pride. Favoritism is corrosive to the very heart of our democracy and corrupts public morals.

Hernando County must embrace the best of our democratic ideals and maintain an open, honest, and equitable bidding process. We will all benefit.

C.D. Chamberlain lives in Spring Hill

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , ,

Sansom Lawyers Up

From the St. Pete Times:

House Speaker Ray Sansom has retained ethics lawyer Richard Coates to handle the complaint a Clearwater man filed after Sansom got a $110,000 job at Northwest Florida State College.

Coates is a well-known lawyer in Tallahassee and has appeared numerous times before the Florida Commission on Ethics. Among others, Coates has defended former state CFO Tom Gallagher in a stock trading case that was dropped after Gallagher lost the GOP gubernatorial primary to Charlie Crist.

Filed under: Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , ,

Taxpayer-funded vouchers balloon in Florida

From The Sun-Sentinel:

More than two years ago, the state stopped giving tuition vouchers to students who wanted to leave failing public schools for private school. Since then, Florida’s other two programs that pay private-school tuition for disabled kids or poor children have grown by 21 percent and 65 percent respectively. Today, 42,000 Florida students attend private school on the public’s dime. And a new study touting voucher benefits could trigger more expansion.

Last school year, the state gave out a total of $205 million through both programs. This year, legislators expanded the program for poor students by $30 million, which means $118 million can be distributed and 5,000 to 6,000 more poor children can participate.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , ,

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